Studies as to the benefits of bilingualism and studying a second language are numerous. However, researchers now believe they have strong evidence to suggest bilingualism can act as protection for the brain and delay the onset of dementia. Their research showed in some cases that mono-linguists developed the condition five years earlier than those who are bilingual.
The results of these studies have led some experts to suggest that Universities should require their students to have studied a language. Professor Antonella Sorace, of Edinburgh University says “Languages should be a requirement for any kind of degree” adding she believes language learning should start at aged 5 and continue throughout a child’s education. Sorace has been involved in research into the benefits of language learning in keeping the brain active. A study was carried out on retirees on the Isle of Skye with no previous knowledge of Gaelic, who then undertook a week long, five hour per day course. Commenting on the results of the study Sorace said
“Sure enough, when we compared them with other active retired people who were doing a course on something else, not just couch potatoes, we found in those who were doing a language course, the brain responds.”
“So even when you are in your 60s or 70s, your brain responds. We found this one-week intensive language course led to an improvement in cognitive function. It’s a significant improvement.”
Dementia experts have agreed that a low level of education is one of the factors that they believe increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. With 850,000 people suffering with Dementia in the UK, Professor Carole Brayne, of Cambridge University “If we were able to address all the seven risk factors” of which education is one “we think we could reduce the prevalence of dementia by around 30 per cent.”