Speaking two languages (bilingualism) has been shown by previous studies to improve communication skills: children who learn two languages from birth achieve the same basic milestones as monolinguals, but may do so via different strategies for language acquisition. Ellen Bialystok, from York University (Ontario, Canada), and colleagues report that while bilinguals tend to have smaller vocabularies in each language than do children who know one language, bilinguals may have an advantage when it comes to certain nonverbal cognitive tasks. Bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals on exercises that require blocking out distractions and switching between two or more different tasks. Due to the utilization of a control network that limits interference between languages, the researchers report that bilingual speakers develop advantages in attention and cognitive control that may have important, long-term benefits. The team posits that the increased use of language processing systems may protect bilinguals against Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reported by The Association for Psychological Science, Nov. 9, 2010.
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