Alien Languages - Bilingual Children's Books
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Bilingual Brains


Getting old is hard. Slowly, but surely, everything changes. New things begin to appear in your life: wrinkles, afternoon naps and beige clothing whilst others sadly disappear – your pelvic floor and your car keys. Little can be done about the former and the days you could confidently bounce on a trampoline without fearing a small emission of wee are long gone. However, recent research from scientists at the University of Kentucky has uncovered a possible answer to the latter: being bilingual.
Older people with bilingual brains were found to have greater “cognitive flexibility”, a scientific way of explaining the phenomenon of knowing where your car keys are at all times. Not only that, the bilingual seniors were able to switch from task to task more efficiently than their monolingual counterparts and were far more adept at recalling words. Speaking another language it seems, is far more useful than simply being able to order a pain au chocolat in a Dordogne bakery.
Interestingly too, the study also examined the brains of younger bilinguals but found that whilst they performed the tasks more quickly than the seniors, there was no perceptible difference in brain activity between younger mono and bilingual adults. In other words, the real physical benefits to your brain of speaking another language don’t really come into play until much later in the life; just when we need that extra little shot of mental energy. It’s official then - being bilingual keeps the mind young. This doesn’t necessarily mean a brain with a perpetual hankering to roll in at 3am on a Saturday night or with a yearning for inappropriate footwear, but one which is pliable, energised and alert.
This is great news for countries which already have naturally high levels of bilingualism. The grey armies of Switzerland must be a formidable force of agile-minded grandparents casually flipping between languages as their neurons fire from all directions. If any more evidence were needed for the benefits of language learning this is it. We’re all living longer, dragging our sorry selves towards the hallowed centenary mark in increasing numbers. Being bilingual, or even working towards it, seems a worthy way of maintaining some semblance of sense and a far more productive way of spending one’s twilight years than constantly looking for the car keys.