Would you learn a new language if it would help your health?

bilingual, french, english, dementiaWould you learn a new language if it would help your health? You may have heard that bilingual children actually have more brainpower than kids who grow up speaking only one language. (Learn more about the cognitive advantages that bilingual kids have here.)

But could speaking multiple languages help you at the other end of life as well? Neuroscientists now say yes. Bilingualism appears to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent study, Dr. Ellen Bialystok at York University found that in bilingual patients with dementia, the disease had a later onset than in monolingual patients. On average, being bilingual delayed the disease by four to five years.

Why does being bilingual protect against dementia? Regularly speaking two languages strengthens different parts of the brain. This exercise helps what neuroscientists call “executive control,” which refers to complex cognitive skills like planning, working memory, mental flexibility, and many other important functions. These skills are the first to disappear as we age, but some activities (like eating well, exercising regularly, and doing word puzzles) have been shown to stave off mental decline in old age. Apparently, being bilingual has a similar impact.

Does your high school French class count? Sadly no. How often you speak a second language, and how well you know it, both influence to what degree being bilingual can protect against dementia. Other variables, like when a patient learned the second language, have not been examined.

Are you more likely to learn another language because it has positive health impact?


  1. Ashish -  December 3, 2012 - 4:15 am

    I just started with my fifth language- Russian, following English, French, Hindi and Punjabi.

  2. Frenchlove -  October 28, 2012 - 12:42 am

    Why I learnt Francias!
    J’aime le Francias! ( I love French!)

  3. Tushar -  July 13, 2012 - 12:14 am

    DeeptiD(NSK) on April 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm——-

  4. Stella -  May 30, 2012 - 12:00 am

    In my country, English is the first language and one’s own mother tongue is the second language spoken, so I guess it helps unless if your mother tongue happens to be English.

  5. the fox with crackers -  May 8, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    i am 12

  6. the fox with crackers -  May 8, 2012 - 4:15 pm


  7. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:22 am

    i,m 10

  8. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:19 am

    :( :) ;o

  9. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:17 am

    i know only 4 langes welllllllllll a bit of everthing :)(: o and stay like a rockstar

  10. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:11 am

    hola spanish hello english

  11. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:09 am


  12. rockstar -  May 2, 2012 - 10:08 am

    i love dic. com but to learn french2

  13. AX -  May 2, 2012 - 8:02 am

    I DO NOT believe you guys above are all multilingual.

  14. Eyram -  April 25, 2012 - 3:14 pm

    Mon pere vient du Togo. Donc je parle un peu de français

  15. 여우 -  April 24, 2012 - 3:15 pm

    why dont i try breaking the computer
    im sure itll help my health
    and why not try banging my head against the wall
    im sure itll help me stay awake

  16. ruby -  April 14, 2012 - 7:22 am

    well i speak English, and am learning French, Japanese and Korean. Looks like i’ll be okay.

  17. Mackenzie -  April 10, 2012 - 11:54 am

    i know 2 languages and can speak one very fluently and the other i kind of hesitate but still am very good at

  18. Ultra -  April 9, 2012 - 7:49 am

    Well, I know some Mando’a, or Mandalorian… :P

    -Star Wars Nerd-Man (Duh :P)

  19. noel4sale -  April 8, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    I think it would be nice though, if everyone spoke the same language.

  20. noel4sale -  April 8, 2012 - 9:17 pm

    I know english…. and I’ve been trying, pretty unseccessfully, to learn russian….

  21. Joseph -  April 6, 2012 - 12:07 pm

    Just take care folks!
    Quote: “Bilingualism appears to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s”
    So, it does not surely protect, does not cure, and does not prevent it. It only delays the total damage.
    I speak 4 languages, I used to play chess, and soon I will not be able to find my bag, some young guy will have hidden it from me, I think he is called Alzheimer…LOL

  22. Ajaykumar Singh -  April 6, 2012 - 8:10 am

    To be bilingual has always been a privilege to the lovers of words and expression .It would definitely make us mentally sound.

  23. Obum -  April 6, 2012 - 6:00 am

    How does a dementia patient behave & how can it be treated?
    Learning a new language at middle age, ll it have a significant effect on the health of the person?

  24. yayRay Shell :) -  April 5, 2012 - 11:30 am

    Yes, because it is healthy. With that motivation, one can not only gain good health, a wider job opportunity, and have lots of fun learning about a particular culture.

  25. Judith Mitchell -  April 4, 2012 - 3:37 pm

    Well, I can say weird and completely useless little phrases in 5 or 6 languages (a great Polish tongue-twister among those), but my problem (sort of; I guess it’s a problem) is that I really want to learn obscure languages that no one within a 1000-mile radius speaks. Basque and Scots Gaelic, for example. Quechua for another. Oh, well. By the way, if anyone knows a program for learning Basque, could you let me know? Thanks. I’ve got some great videotapes for Scots Gaelic but have no one to practice with….

  26. Vicaari -  April 4, 2012 - 2:29 pm

    Why not!


  27. sonia -  April 4, 2012 - 12:44 pm

    Neither the languages nor the healthy food have helped in my case.

  28. Abberube -  April 4, 2012 - 12:16 pm

    A grrreat starting point to learn new languages is this site here: http://www.memrise.com It is scientific and fun to the point of being addictive. Plus it is free. Also, their blog on the site is an interesting read.

  29. Wednesday Before Easter Vacation | MCAH Online -  April 4, 2012 - 9:05 am

    [...] You Study You’ll Remember More. More proof that we use sleep to work through things. • Would You Learn a New Language if It Would Help Your Health? Apparently being bilingual helps with dementia [...]

  30. novelist -  April 4, 2012 - 12:23 am

    I speak pig latin, does that count?

  31. Joseph -  April 3, 2012 - 11:54 pm

    I speak Hungarian , Romanian, English, and rarely German. I also study Cambodian and Shqip (that is Albanian). And I have no dementia! No ye! (that is a personal opinion though…)
    (…if it would help your health? – Is that correct? can we use “would” in an If-clause?)

  32. THE Caitlyn -  April 3, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    oh definetly!!!!

  33. LeWolf -  April 3, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    Ay, ya? I know English. (I’m Canadian, 1/4 German!)
    I also know bits and pieces of…
    Only a little bit of all of those, though…

  34. Nati -  April 3, 2012 - 7:08 pm

    I know only two languages but am always to learn as many as I can. Whenever I read books that have words in different languages i will write them down and later on use the translator and listen to how they sound so I’ll know how to pronounce them.

  35. The Cheshire Cat -  April 3, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    it’s kinda weird, I’m only 14 and can speak German as if I was German, but like I said before, nobody in my family has ever been German!……I wonder why

  36. Hi -  April 3, 2012 - 4:24 pm

    Je parle français. Je suis en college

  37. Alexis -  April 3, 2012 - 4:10 pm

    I trying to learn a third language:French

  38. Martha -  April 3, 2012 - 2:54 pm

    It is a shame my grandmother only spoke Spanish. Although she passed away after the age of 100, her dementia developed much earlier causing an added burden to care for her. She did not recognize her loved ones.

    Gracias por esta informacion.

  39. wolsamnoraa -  April 3, 2012 - 2:47 pm

    Is silence a language we could practice?

  40. Celia -  April 3, 2012 - 2:27 pm

    I don’t speak too many languages. Stupid me. :p BUT, I can understand 3 languages and speak it. I’m also working on my 4th and 5th language.

    Does high school French really not count? I’m not in immersion or extended, but I plan to take it until the end of high school. Apparently, I’ll be able to speak it really well if I stick with French because I’m enrolled in the advanced French program.

  41. Robert Anderson -  April 3, 2012 - 2:17 pm

    I know English, as you can see here, Sign Language, and I am currently learning French.

  42. DJ RGT -  April 3, 2012 - 2:05 pm

    i agree with mary torres with that

  43. Greg -  April 3, 2012 - 1:34 pm

    I know Muvian, Enochian, Lemurian, Ultima-Thulian, Draconic and High Melnibonean, but I think I might already be senile.

  44. sherryyu -  April 3, 2012 - 12:31 pm

    im ok with theis cause im turning quadlangual

  45. Alex Sandro Maggioni Spindler -  April 3, 2012 - 12:14 pm

    Olá! Saber várias línguas nada tem a ver com inteligência, apenas com uma delas, uma vez que existem mais de 7 tipos de inteligência. Uma delas é chamada de linguística.

    Hello! Knowing several languages does not mean that you are the smartest ass in the world. It is just one of the intelligences. There are more than 7 of them. one of them is named “linguistic intelligence”.

    Hallo! Zu wissen, mehrere Sprachen, hat nichts mit Intelligenz zu tun, mit nur einem, da es mehr als sieben Arten von Intelligenz sind. Eines heißt Linguistik.
    Entschuldigung für meine Deutsch.

  46. mary torres ~lots of love ~ -  April 3, 2012 - 12:10 pm

    hey it not hard its realy easy and fun to leran a new languages and it gose bye very fast :)

  47. 冷夏日立印 -  April 3, 2012 - 12:01 pm

    I guess it’s a good thing that I plan on being fluent in Japanese. And having a girlfriend and friends who are as infatuated with Japan as me and also plan on becoming fluent in the language is also a plus. XD But really, I remember my Japanese teacher talking to us about this a couple of weeks ago. I kind of believed her, but now I know she wasn’t lying. I must send this to my father, who for some reason doesn’t believe me…….そして、私は日本語がいつも大好きです。私は日本語がとても大好きです。さあ。じゃね。

  48. Teress Murray -  April 3, 2012 - 10:35 am

    This is all true. Have you ever heard of a Pope who had dementia? A Pope normally speaks at least six languages.

  49. Bombey Braggart -  April 3, 2012 - 8:37 am

    I am so smart. I know 25 languages plus sign language. It shows you how much smarter I am than everybody. I will be the healthiest person in the world. HA!

  50. gearn22 -  April 3, 2012 - 7:59 am

    Awesome! Makes me glad I know German, and now studying Korean! :D

  51. bird -  April 3, 2012 - 7:47 am

    Cunning linguists do it with their tongues. I speak 2 1/3 languages but I’m working on it.

  52. João Lellis Vieira Neto -  April 3, 2012 - 7:30 am

    There is always a recent study or research that is found to be innacurate or false some time later. These things are very hard to believe. I don’t buy it. One day butter is bad for your health, on the other day margerine is terrible. Não acredito em nenhuma dessas besteiras!

  53. misshap -  April 3, 2012 - 6:57 am

    English is my second language.Lately,I’m studying Spanish and Korean…I hope I could do it.:) It’s really hard to study just by yourself…

  54. Ann lee -  April 3, 2012 - 6:47 am

    I wonder if learning computer programming (computer language) would have a similar effect.

  55. Adam -  April 3, 2012 - 4:13 am

    Small correction: Dr. Ellen Bialystok, not Bialystock

  56. mh -  April 3, 2012 - 3:52 am

    I am 11 years old, am a native English speaker and have also been speaking Arabic fluently since I was 9.

  57. LOL -  April 3, 2012 - 3:18 am

    I speak three languages. I speak Engish, Italian and Chinese. Im Chinese.For some reason, everybody thinks Im Italian………. LOL

  58. Rajesh Chaudhary -  April 3, 2012 - 1:44 am

    I know 6 languages: my mother tongue which is MAITHALI, my national language which is Nepali, Hindi by influence and watching hindi movies right from the beginning of the childhood, English of course undoubtedly, can understand URDU and can understand and talk a bit of Thai language.

  59. James Christian -  April 3, 2012 - 1:33 am

    I am a Filipino and I know how to speak three languages English, Tagalog and Bisaya.
    Ako ay Pilipino at marunong ako ng tatlong linguahe Englis, Tagalog at Bisaya.
    Ako usa ka Pilipino og kahibawo ko og tulo ka inistoryahan English, Tagalog og Bisaya…

  60. LoonyLovegood -  April 3, 2012 - 1:20 am

    Lucky for my Dad he speaks 4 languages regulary!!!

  61. DeeptiD(NSK) -  April 2, 2012 - 11:27 pm

    I already know Marathi, Hindi, English, Japanese and now German, now planning start Urdu and then Arabic. Still I tend to forget small things such as name of the person I am talking with or other related things. I am confused..

  62. Amit -  April 2, 2012 - 9:32 pm

    Normally any Indian with an education upto class X standard can speak his or her vernacular, and Hindi and English, and they have to use all of them pretty regularly. Does that mean, that they are less susceptible to old age brain degeneration? Wow! That’s great!

  63. Nadja -  April 2, 2012 - 8:47 pm

    This is amazing. Is is true? I am 13 and I already know 5 languages.

  64. Angela -  April 2, 2012 - 8:18 pm

    I probably would but I already got two languages here and I am learning a third so…

  65. DEMENTIAPROTECTION | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  April 2, 2012 - 7:13 pm

    [...] ‘De Men Tia Pro Tect Ion’ — What Da Frack language is Dat? — We lost our Grammar years ago. — She was quite good singing Polish and Scat. — Lived darn near a Century — A tough old Gal — Liked De Men, Tia say Marie. — Oui on Da udder hand don’t know how — Nor wonder nor worry, — Ya see? — Anyhow, — We need for from Danger a Pro Tech — Keep Away — Prene Garde respect. — If it’s Brain Cells we loosin’ — Wit regard to da snoozin’ — We ain’t got much more to project. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

  66. Mani Jha -  April 2, 2012 - 6:58 pm

    That’s exactly why I started learning Francais a few weeks ago!

  67. NordeGrasen34 -  April 2, 2012 - 6:54 pm

    I also hope to add Pimsleur’s Brazilian Portuguese to my CD collection, making it 11 languages. I’m really hoping to learn Aramaic (Assyrian, as well as all the other Southwest Asian languages because I’m a huge history buff). Germanic and Romance languages just don’t have the historical appeal of the Middle-Eastern branch of Afro-Asiatic languages.

  68. NordeGrasen34 -  April 2, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    I can speak 2 languages fluently. My second language is Amharic, spoken primarily in the East African country of Ethiopia. I ordered 10 languages on Pimsleur Approach language program: Mandarin, Modern Hebrew, Modern Greek, Italian, Russian, Eastern Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Spain’s Spanish (Castellano). There is also a Byki website from which I got the languages of Farsi (Iran), Mongolian, Irish, Scottish, Hindi, Urdu (Pakistan), Swahili, and more Hebrew. My question is, how to I download these without having to back up my system? Every time I try to get a language on my computer asks me to back up the system and restart, but my brother warns me that it isn’t a good idea to do that. Any suggestions from is welcome. Another fun thing to do is get phrasebooks from the public library on languages. I checked one out on Amharic to learn any words I didn’t already know, and to acquire more phrases to include in to my vocabulary and conversations. My favorite one is the Quechua phrasebook (Runasimi in it’s own tongue) the most widely spoken American Indian language in North and South America. It is probably second only to the Kaalalit Nunaat (Greenland) language in most # of speakers. Greenland is also the only Western Hemisphere country (considered by myself and a number of sailor to be the 8th continent because of its sheer size) that has a Indigenous Algonquian majority and the total population as speakers. This world is more strange and interesting than a lot of people might think- and the more languages you know, the more you’ll be able to appreciate, understand, and communicate with people from all realms of experience and perspectives. Thus, you will become more of a person because you’ll know the nuaces and peculiarities, thoughts and means of processing information, personal narratives and national historical memories, that make us all who we are in the unique mosaic of Earth’s Epic Narrative through the movements of time.

  69. Victoria -  April 2, 2012 - 5:57 pm

    English, Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, French

    I can read and write both English and Chinese really well, and am currently learning Japanese and French. Since I have a base in English for French, and Chinese for Japanese, I guess its relatively easier to learn those languages for me. I find that learning a language is easier when you look for patterns and memorize them. Even a language like Chinese, and the kanji system in Japanese, where you have to memorize every single character, there are specific patterns that you can follow. Some don’t, but most do. This method is a lot easier than straight memorization, and straight memorization, I find, doesn’t really store the information into your long term memory.

    For the instances where you have to learn from memorization, it helps to look at the material every once in a while. Again, memorization in one sitting won’t store the information into your long term memory.

    I’ve been using this method since I started learning English as my second language. And finding methods such as these, and putting them into use, I’m guessing, is what strengthens the brain. It’s great to know that being bilingual lowers the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s!

  70. インヂゴ・イースト -  April 2, 2012 - 4:36 pm

    :D ほんと凄いでしょう!
    ↓Sticks and Stones,日本語を学ぶに、頑張って!

  71. weishrjung -  April 2, 2012 - 4:09 pm

    J’espere parler Nihongo, mais es muy dificile. Dakara, neige hua bushr wode gengo. To itte mo, je parle un peu. On the other hand, speaking several languages can lead to other cognitive difficulties, such as incomprehensible sentences.

  72. Cyberquill -  April 2, 2012 - 3:51 pm

    I speak two languages, but I keep forgetting which ones.

  73. Me -  April 2, 2012 - 3:40 pm

    J’ai suivi un cours de français au lycée, et je peux penser en français. Je parle en français chaque jour, probablement.

  74. Lea M. -  April 2, 2012 - 3:00 pm

    Well, does my high school french class count if i actually pay attention and learn it? because if it doesn’t, count me out, dude.

  75. The Cheshire Cat -  April 2, 2012 - 2:34 pm

    I am learning French tho!
    Btw this is my new username! I don’t really like using the beastboylover one cus well it’s my email! lol

  76. n8 -  April 2, 2012 - 2:21 pm

    i’m bilingual and smart

  77. BeastBoyLover(Abi) -  April 2, 2012 - 2:11 pm

    Well I would, but I already know how to speak German and the funny thing about it is that no one in my family speaks it nor German! Strange…but awesome!

  78. Phillip Bracha -  April 2, 2012 - 1:51 pm

    Wow. Non sapevo che! Così io sto contribuendo contro Alzheimer di parlare italiano?

  79. Christy -  April 2, 2012 - 1:02 pm

    As a word-lover, I’ve always made it my goal to sponge up as much vocabulary, regardless of language, as possible. I’ve also wanted to learn three languages to be what I call a 1,2,3… a single, bi-sexual, tri-linguist. But that’s just for giggles. Anyway, to answer the bottom line question:

    Yes, given the Bialystock research, my interest has been further piqued in learning another language for the health benefit. Given that dementia and Alzheimer’s is prominent in my lineage, I feel that I would use this language tool as a fun preventative measure.

    Just to share some personal points I collected when learning French in High School… I did experience a boost in my creative thinking and writing skills.
    Also, in the bilingual article connected to this page, the writer mentions an increased sensitivity in auditory and visual perceptions. With what I know about synesthesia, learning another language may help springboard others to develop this truly creative and mindful way of perceiving the world.

  80. Sticks and Stones -  April 2, 2012 - 12:46 pm

    Most people who say “First Comment” are usually never the first ones.

    BTW, I am learning my third language, Japanese.


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top