This is an interesting read. The premise is that basically, those people who learn a second language have a later onset age of dementia and have better cognitive performance scores - including those of reading and general intelligence.
It's one of those articles that...
quality of life in my later years?
For me it raises a few questions though:
What were the samples
made up of? I mean, are we looking at regular Joe Bloggs? Or are we looking at
university post-graduates. The article in the BBC doesn't
Secondly, how are they measuring "general
intelligence" and what do they mean by that? Psychologists are still arguing the
nature of intelligence - whether it's a single entity, whether it's made up of
heirarchal components, whether it's learned, whether it's innate, whether it's
lots of different abilities and whether you can have more than oen. So how does
this study define the type of intelligence they're measuring and what does that
actually mean for their subjects?
Thirdly, how do we know that it's not intelligent people who CAN and DO learn a second
language. Is it that learning a language increases our intelligence? Or that
increased intelligence leads to learning a second language? Again, the article
is unclear on this point. Causality is the imeediate go-to question for a lot of
people and they have mentioned this in the first part of the
Furthermore, those with higher
cognitive abilities can arguably be described as more curious and/or
inquisitive. Surely that in itself is a prerequisitie for intelligence? So in
turn, those people who have higher general intelligence scores can be described
as inquisitive. Can we then link this to a more energetic and life-long approach
to learning new things? Some of which would surely include learning a new
Therefore, are we looking at a link
between ageing of the brain and language learning or are we actually looking at
a more complex relationship between intelligence, curiousity and brain ageing?
If we can assume that those people who have more inquisitive, active minds then
following the logic surely it's fairly obvious that these people would have
decreased senility at younger ages simply because of the continued use and
development of mental faculties.
So maybe the moral of the story isn't actually about learning a new language. Maybe the moral of the
story is about remaining curious even as you age.
Or maybe I'm just kidding myself because I'm hopeless at learning languages. We'll see in
60 years or so ;)