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Speaking more than one language is good for the brain, according to new research that indicates bilingual speakers process information more efficiently and more easily than those who know a single language. The benefits occur because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and choosing which language to use and which to ignore, said a researcher.
The study, which will be published online in the journal Brain and Language on Nov. 12 was one of the first to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to test co-activation and inhibition in bilinguals. Co-activation during bilingual spoken language comprehension, a concept Marian pioneered in 1999, means that fluent bilinguals have both languages “active” at the same time, whether they are consciously using them or not. Inhibitory control involves selecting the correct language in the face of a competing other language.
Earlier in her career, Marian recorded eye movements to track co-activation and inhibition. She found that when bilinguals heard words in one language, such as “marker” in English, they often made eye movements to objects whose names sounded similar in another language they knew, such as “marka” which means stamp in Russian.
In her most recent study, volunteers were asked to perform language comprehension tasks. Upon hearing a word, study …
The results create a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Is a bilingual person better at such tasks due to their expertise in both languages, or are people with greater comprehension capacity better equipped to master multiple languages? It could be a mixture of the two. The researchers of the new study believe that being bilingual is a constant brain exercise. So instead of tackling a puzzle, why not give a new language a shot, if not solely for the brain challenge.
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