Writing Blog

February 18, 2007

Speaking at Least Two Tongues Impedes Brain Degeneration

Filed under: English,Languages,Spanish — Rafael Minuesa @ 11:34 PM
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Knowledge of more than one language has been linked by Canadian researchers to a significant delay in the onset of dementia symptoms by as much as four years, compared to monolingual people.
Fluency in two or more languages may be able to stave off cognitive decline because of the mental agility required to juggle them in day-to-day life, said principal investigator Ellen Bialystok, Professor of Psychology at York University and Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain.

Scientific researches have been examining for a long time how lifestyle items such as physical activity, education and social engagement may build the “cognitive reserve” and a long-lasting healthy brain in later years of life.

The cognitive reserve means enhanced neural plasticity, compensatory use of alternative brain regions, and enriched brain vasculature, which fight against the onset of dementia symptoms (brain degeneration).

Now, the team at the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain, adds bilingualism to these factors. “We are pretty dazzled by the results,” said Bialystok: “Our study found that speaking two languages throughout one’s life appears to be associated with a delay in the onset of symptoms of dementia by four years compared to those who speak one language.”

The same team had shown that bilingualism enhances attention and cognitive control in both children and older adults. Now, they examined the diagnostic records of 184 patients of Baycrest’s Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic between 2002 and 2005, which presented cognitive complaints.

The study group compassed 91 monolingual persons and 93 bilingual ones, the other language spoken besides English being Polish, Yiddish, German, Romanian and Hungarian.
132 patients met criteria for probable Alzheimer‘s (the most common form of dementia, which is highly genetic); the other 52 presented other dementias.

The researchers used data of Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores (a measure of general cognitive functioning), years of education and occupation. The MMSE scores were the same for the monolingual and bilingual groups at their initial visit to the clinic, pointing comparable levels of impairment.

The team determined that the onset of dementia symptoms in the monolingual group occurred at the mean age of 71.4, while the bilingual group was 75.5 years.
The difference remained even after considering the possible effect of cultural differences, immigration, formal education, employment and even gender as influences in the results.

“There are no pharmacological interventions that are this dramatic,” says Dr. Freedman, who is Head of the Division of Neurology, and Director of the Memory Clinic at Baycrest.

“El hombre es tantas veces hombre
cuanto es el número de lenguas que ha aprendido”
Carlos I de España

More Info:

Original Thread and Discussion:

Speaking two tongues helps lick dementia, study finds
… Globe and Mail to see how knowledge of more than one language has been linked by Canadian …

Chow, Tiffany Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… UCLA Dept of Psych; Tiffany Chow MD
2002-2002 Language Processing in Semantic Dementia and …

Hasher, Lynn Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… Michigan, 1997;
Lessons from Cognition: Foreign Language Instruction Asian Language Instructors; Duke University, 1997;
Cognitive Issues and Aging Research Duke University … University; Raleigh, NC, 1989;
Attention, Memory, and Language Comprehension: The Role of …

What is MEG? :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… complex information processing such as melody and language can also be explored. Furthermore, we …

Stuss, Donald T. Dr. (Chair) :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… fractionation and localization of attentional and language processing in the …

Tulving, Endel Dr. (Chair) :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… animals lies in the fact that animals do not have language. When, in a behavioral test, animals … of autonoetic episodic memory for animals without language (chapter in a 2005 book edited by …

Mayberg, Helen Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… 1993-1993 Chair, UTHSCSA IRB committee-Consent form Language on Radiation Exposure Risk …

Pantev, Christo Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… structures in the central auditory system with respect to language and music Publications …

Ween, Jon Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… established for the first time a clear link between language impairments and verbal long term … processing in a manner that dissociated from other language function such as phonological ability. …

Jokel, Regina :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… Applied Research Unit
University of Toronto Research FocusMy research focuses on (1) language interventions for adults with progressive … Poland
1991 Master of Health Science in Speech-Language Pathology, University of …

Wodniecka, Zofia Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… Bilingualism: cognitive consequences of bilingualism language processing in bilinguals …

Park, Lillian Dr. :: Baycrest Research Division – Enriching Care, Enhancing Knowledge, Enlightening Minds
… judgment-makingInvestigating the relationship of language and memory processes in bilingual …

September 17, 2006

Spanish Vs English

Filed under: English,History,Languages,Spanish — Rafael Minuesa @ 8:27 AM
Tags: , , , ,

In a test carried out to find out which language would be easier for a computer to learn, Spanish came out to be the easiest, by far. These results shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Spanish is a well structured and fully matured language, with roots deeply attached into Latin, arguably the best structured language ever.

The Spanish language has been developed over many centuries, the work of many scholars and educational institutions and has been enriched with contributions from a wide selection of cultures from all over the world.

Although as far as foreign contributions goes, English is richer, althoigh its lack of logical structure makes it a language where exceptions are the rule and rules are exceptions.
Trebor Jung once said that:

“English is essentially bad Frisian, old French, Latin, and Greek, with a grammar that pretends to be like Latin but is really like Chinese or very dumbed-down Germanic (depending on how you look at it).”

I pretty much agree with that statement.

English as spoken by a native British person sounds kind of harsh to foreigners and even without understanding what they’re saying, some aura of preposterousness can still be detected, specially in the way they end the sentences.
American English sounds friendlier, at least to me, and although is not music to the ears either, is more melodic and easier to understand.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the English language. I like its directness, its flexibility and its pragmatic attitude when dealing with new concepts. And as the international language of choice for about every citizen from every country on Earth, it has none or very few and far behind competitors.
What I like most is its ability to create new words to deal with new situations, in a simple but effective way. In that sense of simplicity, English is far richer, because it’s able to convey a whole concept into a single word on its own right.
It is impossible, for example to translate any of the meanings of the word “Spam” into just one Spanish word.

In Spanish every word must be approved first from some kind of out-of-touch-with-reality linguistic authority before it can be officially used. And it can take years before that happens, if ever.
In my uneducated opinion, that attitude is just not practical in today’s world and slows down the development of languages
However it doesn’t get as ridiculous as in France, for example, where the Wise Men pretended that people used the expression “international network of computers” in French instead of the already implanted “Internet”.

As an European who was fascinated with the American Way before actually going to the United States, I had always held this idea of American people as being a smart bunch of entrepreneurs who had the magic formula to make lots of money through innovation and multicultural contributions.
But once you get there, you start to understand that maybe that was some characteristic of past generations, but far from today’s reality.

One of the things that struck me the most was the marginalization of the Spanish language in the States. While the rest of the world is increasingly learning Spanish, the United States of America have chosen to ignore a world language already implanted in their country and spoken by over 20% of its population.
Countries like Switzerland have their kids learn 2-3 languages at very early ages. This policy has created a large pool of people capable to travel and make business with the rest of the world.
Any other nation would pay a fortune for having such a large share of its population speaking a second language, which incidentally happens to be the one language understood by all people South of its border.
Spanish has 325,529,636 first language speakers. That makes it the second most popular language spoken worldwide, after Mandarin Chinese with 882,475,389 speakers and ahead of English with 311,992,760.

So, why all this animadversion towards anything that smells of Spanish?
Why are all those ignorant law-makers trying to erase a language and a culture that is so intrinsically rooted into the foundations of their own country?
It’s a mystery that can not be be explained without taking into account the power of the media serving private interests.

Map of U.S. Territorial Growth 1790 showing Spanish Territories
Spanish is considered to be a second-class language in the States and that’s due to some recent historical misconceptions.
It is often forgotten that Spain was the country that backed up the American Revolution, providing military and financial support. It did so, clearly not so much because of its love for Freedom, but rather because of its historical vendetta with Britain.

But still, the facts are the facts, and what it is today the first power on Earth, owes its birth largely to Spain. So much so, that without Spain’s help, it just could have not happened, and the world today would play in a different scenario, maybe better, maybe worse, but surely different.

Spain provided financial avail and paid for many expenses generated during the first years of the new-born United States of America. This is proven by the fact that the governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, in recognition of his work and help to the American cause, was taken by George Washington to his right in the parade of July 4th and the American Congress cited Gálvez for his aid during the Revolution.

Furthermore, more than half of the US. territory belonged to Spain, and except Puerto Rico, that was taken by military force together with Cuba and the Philippines at the end of the 19th century, the rest was amiably transferred or interchanged for some amounts of money (a million dollars for the whole of Florida’s peninsula is what I call a bargain).
By the way the symbol for the dollar ($) originates from the Plus Ultra drawing depicting two columns and a waving ribbon representing Spain’s overseas colonies.

Up to the Spanish-American War, relations between the two countries had been most friendly, but after the campaign against Spanish interests orchestrated by Hearst, the press tycoon who was a personal friend of Roosevelt, the idea of Spanish as enemies took hold.
Hearst’s New York City paper, the New York Morning Journal, became known for sensationalist writing and for its agitation in favor of the Spanish-American War, and the term yellow journalism (a pejorative reference to scandal-mongering, sensationalism, jingoism and similar practices) was derived from the Journal’s color comic strip, “The Yellow Kid.”

That twisted perception has dragged over the years up to today, and it’s about time that the United States comes to realize what its real roots are and starts to take advantage of its Hispanic resources.

Bilingualism makes people smarter and more tolerant to other cultures, and frankly, those are two traits that the largest part of today’s American society is in need of. It’s a win-win situation that only the most ignorant and stupid would fail to realize in its full potential and take proper advantage of it.

Besides, Spanish is the language of the future. Ask any computer about it if you don’t believe me.

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