By Natalie Nagpal
The acquisition of language is a phenomenon that is highly impressive yet not completely understood. While there is no one mechanism or section in the brain that controls how we learn language, the process is linked with the overall executive function of the brain.
As the world becomes more culturally intertwined, more combinations of races are raising children. Due to this, the number of bilingual people is also increasing. A census found that the number of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home from 1980 to 2000 increased by 14.5 million people, indicating that more children are learning the language. In a recent study conducted at Northwestern University, researches found that the encoding of sound done by bilinguals is linked with advantages in executive function.
By being a bilingual, the brain leans to suppress the language that is not in use or being heard. Due to neural plasticity, this subconscious function of suppression exercises the brain in a way that a monolingual will never experience. Within the brain of a bilingual individual upon hearing a word, the meaning of that word in both languages is activated. This exercises the brain and studies have found that bilingual people show symptoms of Alzheimer’s on average 5 years later than monolingual people. This does not mean that being bilingual protects you from Alzheimer’s, but instead that bilinguals brains are more capable of dealing with the diseases damage on the brain.
Any kind of sensory enrichment will improve the brains executive function and cognitive processes. It is important that we continue to enforce the importance of being bilingual so that our children can continue to evolve their brains in this ever changing world.
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