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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs