Learning a second language 'slows brain ageing'

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Hege Jakobsen Lepri  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:33
Member (2002)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
translations may not pay much Jun 3, 2014

...but at least it keeps your brain fit...

 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 23:33
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
It makes me wonder Jun 3, 2014

what will happen if you decide to learn a third or a fourth language in your adult years...

 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 07:33
Japanese to English
+ ...
Lots of things do Jun 4, 2014

So do crossword puzzles, chess, sudoku etc...

As long as you aren't sitting vegged out in front of a television all day you should be fine.


 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:33
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
That might be helpful in some cases Jun 4, 2014

Unfortunately, being multilingual didn't prevent my father from getting dementia after he retired from his government job in his mid-60s, which is fairly early, I believe. In fact, he had Parkinson's disease, and the dementia was the first symptom related to that illness to show up. The more common signs, i.e. trembling limbs and loss of motor control took much, much longer to manifest themselves, probably because he had been an avid bicyclist and loved walking, which he did every day - often several miles at a time. So in his specific case, having a command of several languages plus regular exercise did not add up to a silver bullet. The Parkinson's won.

I recently started a Tai Chi course. Many studies have found that it is very beneficial to good physical and mental health. So between that and languages - if the theory is generally true otherwise - I should live to be 100 with a sharp, functioning brain!!icon_wink.gif

One of many articles based on studies that have researched the benefits of Tai Chi:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/tai-chi-health-benefits_n_5410470.html

Edited to add a further, very informative link about Tai Chi and health for anyone who might find it of interest:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi



[Edited at 2014-06-04 11:25 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Maybe, but... Jun 4, 2014

When I lived in France there was an Englishwoman living in the next village who I'm assured spoke perfect French until dementia set in. By the time I knew her she either couldn't speak a word of French, or maybe she just didn't see the need to as she didn't know she was in France. She certainly didn't seem to understand it and would just stare blankly at French people and yell at them in English. Her command of English was probably failing to some extent - I doubt her range of vocabulary was very impressive although her swearing certainly was (as is common in such cases) - but she hadn't lost her ability in her native language in the same way as she had lost her acquired language. I suppose it might be a case of "last in, first out".

I'm hoping my struggles with my new language here in the Canary Islands will keep my mind healthy; if not, then maybe I'll have to move even further south to the Portuguese-speaking islands of Cape Verde.


 

xxxxxLecraxx
Germany
Local time: 00:33
French to German
+ ...
I'm not so sure, either Jun 4, 2014

I always say that there are no miracles...
There are professors, writers and actors (who obviously have to memorize a lot) that get dementia. Neither intellectual stimulation nor lots of contact to other people could prevent them from contracting the disease.

On the other hand, there are a lot of unilingual, not so intellectual people who are alone all day watching TV and don't get dementia.

I have read about findings that link one of the most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer's, to insuline. They say it's like diabetes, but a form of diabetes that affects the brain. It remains to be seen whether this holds water or not.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:33
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Many factors are at play there Jun 4, 2014

Teresa Borges wrote:

It makes me wonder what will happen if you decide to learn a third or a fourth language in your adult years...


One of them is motivation. One thing is learning a foreign language for a "dream trip" to a foreign country; another is doing it because a person will have to live there for a specific period of time (e.g. a 2-year work contract); and a third one is when someone is moving to possibly spend the rest of their life there. Of course, there are other incidental motivators, like getting married to a foreigner, living in a mostly foreign neighborhood, working with tourists/expats for many years, etc.

Another one is talent. Some people will quickly learn a language after being immersed in its environment, while others may live there for decades and never master the local language properly.

A third one is 'hooks'. When someone learns a language having a common source (e.g. Latin, Anglo-Saxon, etc.) it is easier to adapt the phrasal structure from one to another. On the other hand, it is likely that they'll be stuck with a foreign accent forever.

Age is certainly a factor, though it may be offset to an uncertain extent by the factors above, and possibly a few others.

My take on age is that at a certain point in life (for me it was when I turned 60) one realizes that they suddenly have more memories than plans. By no means they have less plans than before, however the volume of memories becomes comparatively overwhelming.

After this age, I think there will be so many hooks available, that it will take a longer search to conclude that none applies, when it's the case. This should slow down the new language learning process significantly.

I'd have an enormous quantity of examples to illustrate all I said above, from the aforementioned memories, so I'd rather keep this short, by omitting them here.


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 07:33
Japanese to English
+ ...
It's about increasing your odds Jun 4, 2014

Comparing different people is to a large degree pointless, because everyone has a different set of genes and the environmental effects on people over the entire course of their lives are so varied.

Keeping your brain active supposedly gives you the best chance of delaying or preventing dementia-related illnesses. It does not guarantee that they will not come.

This is why people who were seemingly active thinkers still succumb to these types of illnesses. Contracting the illness was inevitable, but maybe their high level of mental activity actually gave them a few extra years of lucidity (this is perhaps unprovable, though, since each of us can only go through life once).


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 23:33
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I wondered... Jun 4, 2014

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

It makes me wonder what will happen if you decide to learn a third or a fourth language in your adult years...


One of them is motivation. One thing is learning a foreign language for a "dream trip" to a foreign country; another is doing it because a person will have to live there for a specific period of time (e.g. a 2-year work contract); and a third one is when someone is moving to possibly spend the rest of their life there. Of course, there are other incidental motivators, like getting married to a foreigner, living in a mostly foreign neighborhood, working with tourists/expats for many years, etc.

Another one is talent. Some people will quickly learn a language after being immersed in its environment, while others may live there for decades and never master the local language properly.

A third one is 'hooks'. When someone learns a language having a common source (e.g. Latin, Anglo-Saxon, etc.) it is easier to adapt the phrasal structure from one to another. On the other hand, it is likely that they'll be stuck with a foreign accent forever.

Age is certainly a factor, though it may be offset to an uncertain extent by the factors above, and possibly a few others.

My take on age is that at a certain point in life (for me it was when I turned 60) one realizes that they suddenly have more memories than plans. By no means they have less plans than before, however the volume of memories becomes comparatively overwhelming.

After this age, I think there will be so many hooks available, that it will take a longer search to conclude that none applies, when it's the case. This should slow down the new language learning process significantly.

I'd have an enormous quantity of examples to illustrate all I said above, from the aforementioned memories, so I'd rather keep this short, by omitting them here.


... because I started learning my fourth language (Italian) in my 60s!


 

Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 17:33
English to Spanish
+ ...
I'm going to thank my lucky stars. Jun 5, 2014

Alas, to be 26. This is the sort of questions that are very hard to make right now.

I'm not surprised, though. Keeping a sharp mind and a balanced life is the best medicine, and perhaps add a couple of pets to the equation. However, I have no experience with the condition. My family is mostly monolingual, but heart conditions took them before dementia could settle in.

Even so, I've seen the benefits of education in senior citizens. My own grandmother got her middle school diploma when she was in her 60's, and school kept her busy and happy. Society discouraged her from pursuing higher education, but she still became a voracious reader. She knows a lot about history, art, and other cultures. The woman educated herself! This August she will be 80, but she's a very independant senior citizen. At her age, she has no need of a caregiver.


 


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Learning a second language 'slows brain ageing'

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