May 31, 2011

Why bilingualism is good for you

One cannot say it often enough: Bilingualism is good for you. And that's not just because it's fun to be able to talk to the French in French. From a NYT-interview with psycholinguist Ellen Bialystok:
One of your most startling recent findings is that bilingualism helps forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. How did you come to learn this?
Read the answer here.

But be aware that while Bialystok uses a wide definition of bilingualism (encompassing speakers who did not grow up bilingual), using a little high school French now and again doesn't give you the same benefits: "You have to use both languages all the time. You won’t get the bilingual benefit from occasional use."

Bialystok concludes:
There are two major reasons people should pass their heritage language onto children. First, it connects children to their ancestors. The second is my research: Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise. 

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