News / Health

Speaking 2nd Language Could Delay Alzheimer's, Memory Loss

VOA journalists Sandra LeMaire (left) and Zulima Palacio might be better equipped to fight off the memory loss associated with aging because they speak more than one language.
VOA journalists Sandra LeMaire (left) and Zulima Palacio might be better equipped to fight off the memory loss associated with aging because they speak more than one language.

Multimedia

Carol Pearson

If you speak more than one language, you have a better chance of staving off memory loss and, possibly, the mental and physical decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. New research shows that even learning a new language later in life can delay the onset of dementia.

At the Voice of America, there are many people who speak one, two, three or more languages. Sandra LeMaire, on VOA's Web Desk, speaks four languages fluently.

"My first language is French," says LeMaire. "I was born in Haiti, so I grew up speaking French, and then at the age of five, we moved to New York City."

In addition to French, LeMaire's family also speaks Creole, English and Spanish - and she learned those languages as well.

Producer Zulima Palacio's native language is Spanish. She started speaking English in her early twenties. Her reporter's notebook reflects both languages.

"When I go, for example to a press conference, you will have to be bilingual to be able to read my notes. My brain instinctively takes notes in both languages," she says. "If it's shorter in English, I take it in Engilsh. If it is shorter in Spanish, I take it in Spanish."

A new study indicates that as they get older, Palacio and LeMaire will have advantages over their colleagues who speak only one language. People who speak more than one language are better able to stave off the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging. And if they develop Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, their brains will continue to function better than those of their monolingual friends. Those conclusions come from a recent study of 450 Alzheimer's patients.  

Psychologist Ellen Bialystok, of York University in Toronto, was the lead researcher. "We've been able to show that people who spend most of their lives actively using two languages are able to postpone the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by four or five years beyond what we see in comparable monolingual patients."

According to Bialystok, the physical changes that Alzheimer's causes in the brain could be the same for both a monolingual patient and a bilingual patient. But the bilingual patient does not show the outward symptoms of the disease until much later on. Her research is now focusing on the structural differences in bilingual brains.

"It's possible that the bilingual mind is just better connected and better able to cope when there's a disease like Alzheimer's because it has a more robust set of mental activities, mental components."  

Another study shows even more advantage for someone who speaks multiple languages - such as VOA correspondent Ravi Khana, who learned five languages as a child.

"In India, your neighbor is a Bangla, your next door neighbor maybe is a Punjabi and your other neighbor may be somebody else," says Khana. "Kids play together and they talk in their languages, and so you are exposed right away when you come out of your house to other languages."

In a study from Luxembourg, people who spoke three or more languages were less likely to have memory problems as they aged, compared to those who were bilingual.  And even if you only speak one language now, Bialystok says learning a new language can help stave off the effects of dementia, even if you never speak it like a native.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid