The bilingual brain

This is an excerpt describing the cognitive benefits of bilingualism from an article called The rise of the monoglots that Steve provided a link to on his most recent blog post (

The bilingual brain

Speaking two languages is like going to “brain gym,” says Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University’s faculty of health and a leading researcher on the cognitive benefits of bilingualism.

Dr. Bialystok’s early research on children found that, under certain conditions, bilingual children learn to read faster and score higher on cognitive tests than their monolingual counterparts. Her most recent work, at the other end of the age spectrum, has shown that lifelong bilingualism can delay symptoms of dementia.

“A bilingual person with dementia or Alzheimer’s can maintain better cognitive performance longer because bilingualism gives you a cognitive reserve, like a reserve fuel tank,” she says.

Bilingual individuals also think differently, says Richard Clément, a psychologist and director of the University of Ottawa’s Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute. “They have access to two systems. Not only two semantics systems, or two lexical systems, but actually two ways of thinking.”

This ability gives them “a repertoire of thinking modes” and a better capacity for adaptation, he says. As a result, they are “better adjusted, happier and less stressed” in intercultural situations.


“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”


“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”

-Benjamin Lee Whorf

(both quotes borrowed from

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter L
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 20:48:53

    I thought that that part of the article was very interesting as well.


  2. dolmetscher777
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 04:20:03

    Hey Peter, just noticed you wrote this, thanks for the comment:)


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