Individuals with bilingual skills may provide benefits to their brain later in life, according to a new study.

A report published the Journal of Neuroscience, the official publication of the Society for Neuroscience, claims that elderly people who speak at least two languages have slower cognitive decline, possibly decreasing the risk of developing age-related conditions.

“Recent behavioral data have shown that lifelong bilingualism can maintain youthful cognitive control abilities in aging,” the report’s authors stated. “These results suggest that lifelong bilingualism offsets age-related declines in the neural efficiency for cognitive control processes.”

Completed by researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, the study found that, of 110 seniors between the ages of 60 and 68, those who were monolingual used more energy when asked to complete assignments that required “cognitive control.”

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are numerous benefits to being bilingual, especially if the skill is grasped at an early age.

“Children who are learning to speak two languages follow patterns of learning,” the organization claimed. “The sound of the first language can influence how children learn and use a second language. It is easier to learn sounds and words when the languages you are learning are similar. Over time, the more difficult sounds and words will be learned.”

The new study found that using the brain in a way where it has to switch from one function to another could prove instrumental decades down the line. Aside from “being able to learn new words easily,” and learning “good listening skills,” being bilingual can also have a tremendous impact on how humans relate to each other.

On a tip sheet listing the “advantages of being bilingual,” the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association said that problem solving skills increase along with the ability to connect with others.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, roughly 21 percent, or one in five children attending an American grade-school, are able to converse in at least two different languages. That number is expected to grow in the near future. 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer