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June 14, 2004 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Being Bilingual Protects Against Some Age-related Cognitive Changes.
Full paper link.
posted by Gyan (20 comments total)

 
¡Que chévere!
posted by boredomjockey at 7:46 PM on June 14, 2004


Ma maman m'a élévé bilingue, et moi, je suis un idiot complet. C'est une idée dingue.
posted by LairBob at 8:53 PM on June 14, 2004


Oh what? Now they're going to tell us science finds out things?
posted by crasspastor at 9:09 PM on June 14, 2004


Estoy salvao, entonces.
posted by signal at 9:34 PM on June 14, 2004


Bialystok?
posted by mwhybark at 9:37 PM on June 14, 2004


Sugoi!
posted by SPrintF at 9:53 PM on June 14, 2004


Eetna buhkwaas!
posted by Gyan at 10:18 PM on June 14, 2004


Das hört man gerne.
posted by muckster at 11:36 PM on June 14, 2004


Säb findi schono guet!
posted by slater at 12:26 AM on June 15, 2004


Nem besszelom Magyarul.

(you can imagine the proper oomlauts, right?)
posted by kaibutsu at 12:50 AM on June 15, 2004


Jaja ¡pringaos! ¡hablad cristiano!

Anyway, I am very pleased that my precious cognitive skills are being conserved....
posted by sic at 1:30 AM on June 15, 2004


Epa, epa! Arriba! Andale!

Actually, let me raise some doubt. How were the bilinguals selected?

I know some immigrants who, after years in the country have still not really been able to pick up the language. On the other hand, I know others who can pick up a new language just like that! The former, it would seem, would get classed as monolingual, the latter as bilingual. But, clearly, there are already cognitive differences.

That is, if not controlled properly, this experiment might say nothing more than "People with the cognitive strength to pick up a new language are cognitively different than others" which you can see is close to being a tautology.

Let me be clearer. Assume these groups:

M1 (=M1A+M1B) - Monolinguals never given the chance to acquire a second language
M1A- but would have if they had had the chance
M1B- would not have if they had the chance

M2 - Monolinguals given the chance but failed to acquire

B- Bilinguals (obviously given the chance and acquired)

The worst is just to test (M1+M2) against B which is what was done here. Better yet is to test M1 against B. In the ideal world, the best control, but difficult to do would be to test M1A against B.

In any case, the paper says the monlinguals were Canadians and the bilinguals were English-Tamil speakers from India, so that raises even more questions about bias.
posted by vacapinta at 1:42 AM on June 15, 2004


Dit is 'n goeie ding dat ek twee tale prat.
posted by PenDevil at 4:21 AM on June 15, 2004


vacapinta - I tend to agree. This seems like one of the most hopelessly tangled research questions I could imagine, fraught with complexities.

You're right - this seems clearly tautological. Age related cognitive decline impairs ability to learn - and acquiring a new language is one of the most demanding of cognitive tasks. How do these 3 cited studies avoid cherry picking, in the bilingual group, subjects inherently smarter or merely more resistant to age related decline (than the monolinguists) ?

I expected to see these difficulites acknowledged in the actual research paper. Not.

Here a bit on the trial subject selection from one of the 3 studies cited in the research paper ( downloadable as a PDF ) - "All the participants in both groups
had bachelor’s degrees and shared similar middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds. The younger adults were recruited through e-mail postings, and the older adults were recruited through flyers posted in community centers in both countries."


I'm willing to believe that bilingualism does confer protection against age related cognitive decline, but I'm very dubious of these studies as proof of that possibility. To demonstrate that, you'd need a dramatically more sophisticated methodology than the cited studies used.

But perhaps I'm missing something here. I'm not really bilingual, so maybe it's just that my brain is going.

Glub, glub......
posted by troutfishing at 6:52 AM on June 15, 2004


By the way the test is described, wouldn't a better way of preventing "age-related cognitive changes" be playing video games like crazy for the rest of your life?
posted by Veritron at 7:38 AM on June 15, 2004


vacapinta, troutfishing: Bilinguals are defined as those who speak two languages since childhood. If you learnt a second language after age 10, it doesn't count. All the study is saying that brains that accommodate two languages since childhood are more elastic, overall. Doesn't seem controversial.

I don't think the study is claiming that only additional language instruction can help stem the eventual rot.
posted by Gyan at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2004


Chikusho! Bakayaro!!

I believe this story regardless of any deficiencies in the research. My languages will save me!
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2004


Gyan - On preview, you're right and I'm wrong. I missed that point. I blame my parents for not speaking two languages.

languagehat - at least, and also - if you were Italian - you could greet any invading army in it's native tongue. But we live in America and so we'll never need to cope with an invasion.
posted by troutfishing at 8:58 PM on June 15, 2004


Ypa!!
posted by adzuki at 12:50 PM on June 16, 2004


MetaFilter: On preview, you're right and I'm wrong.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on June 16, 2004


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