With every clinical test and research trial, it is becoming more and more clear that multilingualism confers certain advantages for cognitive functioning. Whether we grow up bilingual or learn a second language later in life, bilingualism has demonstrated a link to slowed cognitive decline in key areas related to dementia.
Tests that compared severity and onset of dementia between monolinguals and bilinguals showed that, on average, multilinguals were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 4.3 years later, and reported the onset of symptoms 5.1 years later than their monolingual counterparts in the study.
Researchers have surmised that use of multiple languages keeps the mind more active and more engaged than persons with sedentary (both physically and mentally) lifestyles, and more activity bolsters cognitive reserve. Strengthening cognitive reserve is essentially like improving the overall health and well-being of the brain, similar to how physical exercise positively affects the functionality of the whole body.
It seems logical to conclude that other languages can be learned, and similar benefits can be gained. This includes sign languages, programming languages, networking code, musical notation, and more. These all count as new languages that will get your brain “pumping iron,” flexing the neuroplasticity, and leading to changes in brain connectivity and neural density. These practices prepare the human brain for longevity and lasting functionality, so we can all benefit from such exercise in daily life, whether through language fitness, physical fitness, musical endeavors or other disciplines. The limits are few, and the possibilities many.