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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid