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Being Bilingual is Good for Your Brain

June 20, 2011
Plain English Version

The brains of bilingual people work differently than the brains of people who speak only one language. Bilingual brains are able to process information more efficiently.

When a bilingual person hears words, she analyzes the information and chooses the best responses.

Researchers asked 5-year old children: Is this sentence correct grammatically?

“Apples grow on noses.”

Single language children said the sentence was silly.

Bilingual children said the sentence was silly, but correct grammatically.

Researchers said the bilingual speakers use an “executive control system.” Its job is to decide what information is most important. If you use two languages regularly, every time you speak, both languages pop up in the brain.

The brain finds what is relevant. Bilingual speakers use that part of the brain more than single language speakers. Regular use makes that system more efficient. It is one reason that researchers found that bilingual speakers are better at multitasking.

Neuroimaging sees how the parts of the brain work with each other. It shows that bilingual speakers solve nonverbal problems faster. Researchers claim the bilingual brain appears rewired.

It seems to be a great thing to be truly bilingual.

The New York Times

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