Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Bilingual Advantage (Eitt tungumál er aldrei nóg)

The Bilingual Advantage - NYTimes.com




If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.
The bad news is your high school French doesn't buy you any time against the encroachment of Alzheimer's; true bilinguals, using both languages all the time, hold off the most serious symptoms of the disease five to six years longer than monolinguals and dabblers.

I have lots of hare-brained ideas from a number sources, it's one my quirky charms -- or so I maintain in the face of laughter and mockery. For example, I think we should all wear motorcycle helmets when we're driving. But that's not the one I wanted to tie into this post. One of the things that I thought was cool in Dune as a youngster was that each Houses used their own battle language. I thought it would be handy if my family spoke a language no one else spoke (or at least no one we were ever likely to meet) so, if we needed to exchange confidential information in a public setting, we talk freely without risk of being eavesdropped upon. Before my kids were born, I idly considered starting to learn Gaelic or Icelandic so I could teach them a family battle language. It would, of course, be more practical to encourage them to learn Spanish, Mandarin, or Bengali, a language they're likely to be able to use, but if I were really practical, we'd all be wearing helmets in the car.

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