There have been multiple research studies and articles in the past year or two that have shown the benefits of bilingualism. Here’s another article from the NYT citing much of this research from the past few years!
A few major findings:
“They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.”
“Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles.” (As a bilingual myself, I have to say sadly this isn’t true for everyone. Scored a class low in a mental rotation cognitive task just last week in section…hmm maybe I don’t know Chinese as well as I thought?
“In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”
I guess I should thank my mom for making me go to Chinese school, even if I dropped out so soon! It helps in childhood as well as old age; who knew language could be powerful in so many ways?