13 AUGUST 2014

Second Language Learning and Intelligence

Second Language Learning and Intelligence

A University of Edinburgh study has found that in a group of people who spoke more than two languages, tested at the ages of 11 and in their seventies, reading, verbal fluency and intelligence were improved.

Data was utilised from intelligence tests on 262 people living in Edinburgh, to analyse how their intelligence had changed. The findings suggested that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities than predicted by their baseline test.

Dr Thomas Bak (Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh) said there was a ‘meaningful’ pattern and that improvements in attention, focus and fluency couldn’t be explained away by original intelligence. The study showed that even when the language was acquired after the age of 18, intelligence was still improved:*

‘Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the ageing brain’

(Dr. Bak, University of Edinburgh)*

Another study has suggested that being fluent in another language could delay the onset of dementia by a number of years.*

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• Learning second language 'slows brain ageing', http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27634990