In a recent interview in the New York Times Science Section, cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystock was interviewed about recent studies that have found that being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by an average of five to six years.
Unfortunately, the occasional use of a second language does not qualify for bilingualism. The second language must be used regularly in your every day life.
The study of 211 diagnosed Alzheimer’s sufferers found that the onset of symptoms in bilingual patients occurred more than 5 years after those monolingual patients, and were diagnosed 5 years later. Interestingly, the monolingual patients were more educated.
Too Late to Learn a Second Language?
It is probably too late for most of us reading this to learn to speak a second language fluently enough to reap the benefits of this study. However, it has been well documented that those adults who remain socially, mentally and physically active are better protected against the onset of dementia.
So, you might say that a bit of je ne sais quoi can delay non compos mentis.