Need an extra incentive to start taking those Spanish lessons? It turns out that learning another language may help keep your memory from deteriorating as you age. Even if you already know two languages, go ahead and try to pick up another – the more the merrier, as far as your memory is concerned.
At least, that’s the conclusion that researchers are drawing from the results of two studies released last week.
The first study, from York University in Toronto, showed that bilingual Alzheimer’s patients were able to delay the effects of the disease by as much as 4 to 5 years compared to patients who only spoke one language. According to Time Magazine, learning another language is like exercise for your brain, and creates a “cognitive reserve” that doesn’t prevent the disease but seems to buy victims more time.
The second study, called the MemoVie study, looked 230 senior citizens, all of whom were at least bilingual. It found that people who spoke three languages were three times less likely to experience memory loss and other cognitive problems compared to participants who only spoke two languages. Also, compared to bilinguals, people who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to face cognitive problems.
Dr. Magali Perquin of the Center for Health Studies from the Public Research Center for Health, the author of the study, explained the results to Science Daily:
“It appears speaking more than two languages has a protective effect on memory in seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime or at the time of the study. Further studies are needed to try to confirm these findings and determine whether the protection is limited to thinking skills related to language or if it also extends beyond that and benefits other areas of cognition.”
If you’d like to get started picking up another language, here’s a helpful list of free online language learning resources to help you get started!