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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid