Bilingualism II – Bilingüismo II – advantages & ventajas

Bilinguals – Bilingües

A scientist’s conclusions about the advantages for intelligence, learning and health

Prof. Miguel Martínez López University of Valencia, Spain

These are some his conclusions at this International Meeting held in Valencia, Spain, last December 2009:

Bilingües y políglotas: mayor densidad material gris (volumen-intelecto, especialmente áreas de memoria, atención, inteligencia y capacidad de abstracción).

Bilinguals and polyglots: denser gray matter compared to monolinguals (volume-intellect, specially in areas of memory, attention, intelligence and abstract ability).

Better job opportunities. Better equipped to compete in global job market.

Mejores oportunidades laborales. Mejor preparación para competir en nuestro mercado laboral globalizado.

Bilingual speakers are better able to focus. Mejor capacidad de concentración.

Greater cognitive flexibility and improved powers of concept  formation.

Mayor flexibilidad cognitiva y mayor capacidad de conceptualización.

Bilinguals have different frames of reference for concepts; different ways of looping at things in the world provided by the different languages.

Los hablantes bilingües exhiben diferentes marcos de referencia conceptual, diferentes perspectivas de aproximación a la realidad facilitadas por los distintos códigos lingüísticos.

Greater morphosyntactic and semantic awareness in language.

Mayor competencia lingïística en las áreas morfosintáctica y semántica.

Bilinguals have different frames of referente for concepts; different ways of looking at things in the world provided by the different languages.

Los hablantes bilingües exhiben diferentes marcos de referencia conceptual, diferentes perspectivas de aproximación a la realidad facilitadas por los distintos códigos lingüísticos.

Being fluent in 2 languages helps prevent some effects of aging on brain function, delaying 4-7 years the onset of dementia in Alzheimer patients. The Canadian Alzheimer society estimates in 2000 Canada spent CAD 5.5 billion. In US over 100 billion p.a.

Using more than 1 language boosts blood supply to brain and ensures nerve connections remain healthy. Bilingual children develop a mental agility monolinguals lack, perform cognitive tasks better, are more creative, better at problem-solving, score higher on literacy tests and this intellectual ability transfers to study of 3rd & 4th languages.

Recommended book: (See Bialystok, 2007 & Laura-Ann Petitto, (2010) New Discoveries From the Bilingual Brain and Mind Across the Life Span: Implications for Education. Mind, Brain, and Education3:4, 185-197 Online publication date: 1-Jan-2010.)

Highly proficient and early-exposed adult Spanish-English bilinguals and English monolinguals participated. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants completed a syntactic “sentence judgment task” [Caplan, D., Alpert, N., & Waters, G. Effects of syntactic structure and propositional number on patterns of regional cerebral blood flow. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 10, 541–552, 1998]. The sentences exploited differences between Spanish and English linguistic properties, allowing us to explore similarities and differences in behavioral and neural responses between bilinguals and monolinguals, and between a bilingual’s two languages. If bilinguals’ neural processing differs across their two languages, then differential behavioral and neural patterns should be observed in Spanish and English. Results show that behaviorally, in English, bilinguals and monolinguals had the same speed and accuracy, yet, as predicted from the Spanish-English structural differences, bilinguals had a different pattern of performance in Spanish. fMRI analyses revealed that both monolinguals (in one language) and bilinguals (in each language) showed predicted increases in activation in classic language areas (e.g., left inferior frontal cortex, LIFC), with any neural differences between the bilingual’s two languages being principled and predictable based on the morphosyntactic differences between Spanish and English. However, an important difference was that bilinguals had a significantly greater increase in the blood oxygenation level-dependent signal in the LIFC (BA 45) when processing English than the English monolinguals. The results provide insight into the decades-old question about the degree of separation of bilinguals’ dual-language representation. The differential activation for bilinguals and monolinguals opens the question as to whether there may possibly be a “neural signature” of bilingualism. Differential activation may further provide a fascinating window into the language processing potential not recruited in monolingual brains and reveal the biological extent of the neural architecture underlying all human language.


Being bilingual may delay dementia

By Kim Painter
Special for USA TODAY

The latest evidence that speaking more than one language is a very good thing for our brains comes from a study finding dementia develops years later in bilingual people than in people who speak just one language.

The study, conducted in India and published in the journal Neurology, is not the first to reach this conclusion. But it is the largest and comes with an intriguing new detail: The finding held up even in illiterate people – meaning that the possible effect is not explained by formal education.

Instead, the researchers say, there’s something special about switching from one language to another in the course of routine communication – something that helps explain why bilingual people in the study developed dementia five years later than other people did. When illiterate people were compared with other illiterate people, those who could speak more than one language developed dementia six years later.

“We know from other studies that mental activity has a certain protective effect,” says co-author Thomas Bak, a neurologist at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. “Bilingualism combines a lot of different mental activities. You have to switch sounds, concepts, grammatical structures, cultural concepts. It stimulates your brain all the time.”

For the study, Bak and colleagues in India reviewed medical records of 648 people with dementia who were seen in a clinic in the city of Hyderabad.

The location was key, because residents of the city, like many people in India, often speak two or three languages – typically some combination of the official language, Telugu, the Urdu dialect Dakkhini and the English increasingly used in schools, workplaces and the media, the authors write. People may speak in one language or combination at home and in neighborhoods and another at work or school, all in the course of a normal day, says co-author Suvarna Alladi, a neurologist at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad.

“Since bilingualism is more of a norm in India, bilingualism is not a characteristic of any particular socioeconomic, geographic or religious group,” she says.

More than half of the people diagnosed with dementia at the clinic were bilingual or multilingual. But the researchers found those people had developed their first symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, at an average age of 65.6 – five years later than the average of 61.1 for people who spoke just one language. The differences were seen in several types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (associated with poor blood flow to the brain) and frontotemporal dementia (caused by degeneration of the brain’s frontal or temporal lobes).

Two previous smaller studies, conducted in Ontario, Canada, found a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease in bilingual people.

But in those studies, bilingual people were largely immigrants, raising questions about whether they differed in other ways from the general population, says Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. The new study is more convincing, he says, “because it is studying bilingual people raised in the same country and culture.”

Gold’s own lab studies have found that bilingual seniors excel at certain skills, such as quickly sorting colors and shapes, and that their frontal lobes work more efficiently as they perform such tasks.

All the research taken together is more good reason, he says, to expose children to language-learning as they grow – and for bilingual families to keep using more than one language in their homes. It’s still unclear, he says, whether people can boost their brains by taking up a second language later in life.

“It may never be too late,” Bak says, but he agrees more research is needed. It’s also unclear, Bak says, whether bilingual people fare any better than others once symptoms of dementia develop.

© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.


About ianemmett

ESPAÑOL & ENGLISH Translator and interpreter for over 20 years - I get paid for doing something I enjoy. Tonnes of articles translated
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