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Being Bilingual Good for the Brain

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In an increasingly globalized world, being bilingual (or even multilingual) has many benefits. In children, for example, speaking two languages translates to higher math scores. Or in the world of business, an employer will likely offer a higher salary if he/she has a command of more than one language. And being bilingual generally also means exposure to more than one culture, bringing about the acceptance and understanding of others. However, did you know that bilingualism benefits the brain too?

Increasingly, more and more scientists are reaching a consensus that speaking two or more languages provides measurable positives. From improved memory and decision-making skills to warding off Alzheimer's Disease, being adept at two languages results in desirable consequences.

Let's start with how the brain of multilinguals must suppress one language. In other words, if someone knew both Spanish and English but were using the former instead of the latter in a conversation, then that person's brain would actively keep the momentarily irrelevant English in check. This results in frequent exercise for the portion of the brain responsible for executive functions like focused thought and problem-solving skills.

There's more, though. People who use two or more languages also can switch between tasks more quickly, perhaps because these people are more accustomed to the confusing back and forth between languages. And as for people with dementia, the first signs on average appear at about 71.4 years of age for monolinguals, but that figure jumps to 75.5 years of age for bilinguals.

As research continues, scientists will likely discover even more reasons to acquire a foreign language.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Brainstorm: Brainstorm with a partner(s) words and ideas associated with "bilingual" for 2 minutes. Spend another 5 minutes or less discussing the words and ideas together.

True or False? : Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Bilingual employees always earn more money.
  2. According to the article, bilingualism can fight against Alzheimer's Disease.
  3. Certain portions of the brain get stronger when someone speaks two languages.
  4. Bilingual people can switch between tasks more quickly
  5. Scientists have already discovered even more reasons to learn a foreign language.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. Would you want to learn a third, fourth, or fifth language? Why/not?
  2. What is the most difficult aspect of learning a language? Why do you think so?
  3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn English? How about your native tongue?
  4. Do you think this information will motivate people to learn a foreign language? Why/not?
  5. What other benefits come from being multilingual? Please explain.

Google Search: Type "bilingual" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:



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