11.5.12

Being bilingual can boost your brain power

Listening en inglés / Escuchar inglés

A study provides evidence that people who are bilingual have a more “powerful” brain. Researchers Viorica Marian and Nina Kraus have investigated how bilingualism affects the brain.

Their results found that studying another language "fine-tunes" attention span and improves memory.

They discovered that when language learners are listening to another language, an ancient part of the brain, called the brainstem, is activated. Professor Kraus stated: "Bilingualism serves as an enrichment for the brain and has real consequences in both attention and memory."

The brain consists of two types of tissues, called gray and white matter. Gray matter makes up the majority of the nerve cells within the brain. Studies have shown a positive relationship between gray matter density in specific parts of the brain and language abilities, memory, and attention span.

Brain imaging techniques have shown that bilingual speakers had a denser gray matter compared to monolingual people.

The difference was especially significant in the left side of the brain. This is the part of the brain known to control language and communication skills. The right hemisphere of bilingual speakers also showed changes. These effects were strongest in people who had learned a second language before the age of five.

“When children start early in language learning and continue through high school and college, they are able to achieve levels of fluency that had not been previously possible in the past due to the late start of most language learning programs”, the scientists said.

In fact it was once thought that learning two or more languages by children was bad and would lead to confusion and delay the development of language learning. Today, these old ideas are known not to be true.

Of course, although it might seem a lot easier to learn a second language when you are a child, it is still possible to do so as an adult. The findings of Marian and Kraus  suggest that the structure of the adult brain can be altered by the experience of learning a second language.

There are, other advantages to being bilingual. Employers often want employees who speak more than one language, because it saves time and money spent on translators and interpreters.

Vocabulario.

fine-tune > afinar
  Their results found that studying another language "fine-tunes" attention span and improves memory.
  Sus resultados indicaron que el aprendizaje de otro idioma "afina" la capacidad de atención y mejora la memoria.

enrichment > enriquecimiento  

span > (to span (a period of time)) > abarcar
  Studies have shown a positive relationship between gray matter density in specific parts of the brain and language abilities, memory, and attention span.
  Los estudios han demostrado una relación positiva entre la densidad de materia gris en las partes específicas del cerebro y las habilidades del lenguaje, la memoria y la capacidad de concentración.
He had a career that spanned 65 years.  Tenía una carrera que abarcó 65 años.

denser (adjective: dense - denser - densest) > compacto, denso.

fluency > fluidez

delay > retraso

altered (to alter) > modificar

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