Brains Benefit From Multilingualism
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- Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 11:39:24 -0800 (PST)
Brains Benefit From Multilingualism
http://www.scienced aily.com/ releases/ 2009/10/09102915 1807.htm
ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2009) — For a considerable time already there
has been discussion within scientific circles about whether knowing
and using multiple languages could possibly have positive effects on
the human brain and thinking. There have been a number of
international studies on the subject, which indicate that the ability
to use more than one language brings an individual a considerable
The report of the research team appointed by the European Commission,
"The Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity," presents the
first known macro analysis based on the available evidence, which has
been conducted by searching through several studies and giving
particular attention on recent research on the brain.
David Marsh, specialized planner at the Continuing Professional
Development Centre of Jyväskylä University, who coordinated the
international research team behind the study, says that especially the
research conducted within neurosciences offers an increasing amount of
strong evidence of versatile knowledge of languages being beneficial
for the usage of an individual's brain.
"The research report brings forth six main areas where multilingualism
and hence the mastery of complex processes of thought seem to put
people in advantage. These include learning in general, complex
thinking and creativity, mental flexibility, interpersonal and
communication skills, and even a possible delay in the onset of
age-related mental diminishment later in life," Marsh relates.
One of the central cerebral areas highlighted in the research report
is the one responsible for memory function. People rely especially on
the short-term memory when thinking, learning and making decisions
"It is obvious that enhanced memory can have a profound impact on
cognitive function, says David Marsh. -- This may be one reason why
the multilingual shows superior performance in handling complex and
demanding problem-solving tasks when compared to monolinguals. They
seem to be able to have an advantage in handling certain thinking
processes," March continues.
It was assumed earlier that differences in the brain would only occur
if a person is bi- or trilingual, that is with a very high command of
different languages. The recently published research suggests,
however, that changes in the brain's electrical activity may occur
already in the beginnings of learning a new language.
According to Marsh, there is also room for improvement in language
education, since children should be encouraged to engage in higher
order thinking about meaningful content that fires up the brain.
"Learning a language strictly as a separate subject in the curriculum
does not work as effectively for a broad range of young people as
compared to embedding second language learning into other subjects.
Thinking about numbers, for example, does figure naturally in a lot of
school learning as well as in real life outside the school, which
supports learning and knowing mathematics. The same may not always be
true of foreign languages," Marsh argues.
The results of the recently published study show that even though it
is difficult to prove the existence of a direct causal link, it is
likely that multilingualism produces a special advantage in utilizing
a person's brain capacity as creatively as possible.
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