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Speaking your mind: links between languages and other skills

The many ways in which languages can boost brain power - who's saying what:

The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual: "Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another. In addition, bilingualism has positive effects at both ends of the age spectrum: Bilingual children as young as seven months can better adjust to environmental changes, while bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline."

Language is Shaped by Brain’s Desire for Clarity and Ease: "When faced with sentence constructions that could be confusing or ambiguous, the language learners... chose to alter the rules of the language they were taught in order to make their meaning clearer."

Language Learning Makes the Brain Grow, Swedish Study Suggests: "At the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, young recruits learn a new language at a very fast pace. By measuring their brains before and after the language training, a group of researchers has had an almost unique opportunity to observe what happens to the brain when we learn a new language in a short period of time."

The cognitive benefits of learning more than one language: Lessons from abroad: an international review of primary languages providing evidence on language learning within various primary curricula across the world, citing a study which found that "the longer pupils study a foreign language, the higher their level of achievement in standardised tests in maths and English". (p19)

Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to a new study. Researchers in Italy found that the 62 bilingual children tested were "significantly more successful in the tasks set for them".

Are you smarter than a three month old? "New research examining auditory mechanisms of language learning in babies has revealed that infants as young as three months of age are able to automatically detect and learn complex dependencies between syllables in spoken language. By contrast, adults only recognized the same dependencies when asked to actively search for them."

Speaking two languages also benefits low income children: "Living in poverty is often accompanied by conditions that can negatively influence cognitive development. Is it possible that being bilingual might counteract these effects? Although previous research has shown that being bilingual enhances executive functioning in middle-class children, less is known about how it affects lower income populations."

How bilinguals are like hurdlers: "Hurdlers blend two types of competencies, that of high jumping and that of sprinting, into an integrated whole. When compared individually with sprinters or high jumpers, hurdlers meet neither level of competence, and yet when taken as a whole hurdlers are athletes in their own right... bilinguals are like hurdlers: unique and specific communicators (in that) bilinguals use their two (or more) languages, separately or together, for different purposes, in different domains of life, with different people."

Speaking your mindAre Some Brains Better at Learning Languages? Do people who learn many languages have different brains? The answer, experts say, seems to be yes, no and it's complicated!

New study shows that bilinguals switch tasks faster than monolinguals: Children who grow up learning to speak two languages are better at switching between tasks than are children who learn to speak only one, according to a study funded in part by the US National Institutes of Health.

How Knowing a Foreign Language Can Improve Your Decisions: Thinking in another language changes how people weigh their options

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational: experiments find that thinking in a second language reduces deep-seated, misleading biases that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived.

How bilinguals process language: people who speak two languages keep both languages active all the time.

Being bilingual 'boosts brain power': scientists believe that learning a second language can boost brain power.

The Bilingual Brain Is Sharper and More Focused, Study Says: The ability to speak two languages can make bilingual people better able to pay attention than those who can only speak one language, a new study suggests.

Study on the Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity: "There is an increasing body of evidence pertaining to a wide variety of people, in various cultural environments, and using different languages, revealing enhanced functioning of individuals who use more than one language, when compared to monolinguals. This suggests a greater potential for creativity amongst those who know more than one language, when compared with monolinguals"

Bilingualism Fine-Tunes Hearing, Enhances Attention: bilinguals' rich experience with language "fine-tunes" their auditory nervous system and helps them juggle linguistic input in ways that enhance attention and working memory, according to a recent study.

Lifelong bilingualism confers protection against the onset of Alzheimer's disease: bilingualism appears to contribute to cognitive reserve, which acts to compensate for the effects of accumulated neuropathology.

Bilingual babies: The roots of bilingualism in newborns: hearing two languages regularly during pregnancy puts infants on the road to bilingualism by birth.

Does bilingualism change native-language reading? Becoming a bilingual can change a person's cognitive functioning and language processing in a number of ways.

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