The news is often filled with talk of the “ageing population” – but as life expectancies rise, there might be an unexpected perk thanks to the language classes Manchester residents attend in their younger years.
A recent article in the scientific journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences notes the benefits of bilingualism on the adult brain – extending previous studies on how multiple languages can help children with their cognitive development.
In the case of adults, being able to speak or understand more than one language has two major advantages for the brain.
Firstly, trying to decide which language to use triggers parts of the brain normally associated with attention spans, potentially improving concentration for bilingual speakers.
Secondly, speaking multiple languages has been linked with protecting brain functions in later years – and has associations with delaying the onset of dementia.
“It should not be surprising that intense and sustained experience leaves its mark on our minds and brains, and it is now clear that the bilingual brain has been uniquely shaped by experience,” says lead study author Dr Ellen Bialystok of York University.
The findings add a new element to the language classes Manchester’s would-be bilingualists attend on a regular basis, and make learning a second language a compelling prospect for anyone keen to remain mentally alert into their later years.