Kristine Hansen

Travel In Mind

Language Immersion Delays Dementia

It's not too late to learn a foreign language -- and delay Alzeimer's.

Posted Oct 17, 2011

Foreign-language immersion has many health benefits, including a delay of Alzeimer's.

Parlez-vous francais? Habla espanol? Sprechen sie Deutsch?

How many times have you traveled to another country and wish you could speak the local language? Deciphering menus would become much easier and the ability to decode where the locals hang out a sure bet.

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto recently completed a study that discovered bilingualism delays the onset of Alzeimer's disease. Because these individuals have twice as much brain damage, from communicating in a second (or third) language, it slows down the speed at which Alzeimer's manifests itself. Now if that's not a reason to learn a foreign language, then I don't know what is.

This summer I began studying Spanish, as I've traveled to Mexico five times and see a few more sun-soaked trips to the Riviera Maya in my future. Already fluent in French, it's challenging to turn my attention to a different language and an entirely new approach to pronunciation of vowels and consonants. However, I predict the end result will be worth it, and next time I'm in Mexico I'll find myself off the beaten path - where most tourists go - perhaps in a taqueria that has never been mentioned in a guidebook?

Bilingualism doesn't have to be the end goal. Think about studying enough of a language to converse with confidence and be able to read newspapers and magazines in that language, as well as read signs and menus, and tune into television shows and foreign films. There are plenty of inexpensive opportunities to dive into a second language, including Rosetta Stone, an independent study with CD-ROMs; or classes at your local community college. Many cities also host informal conversation groups - which are the best way to immerse in a language. I've been to a few Alliance Francaise events which are carried on entirely in French, whether it's a cooking class or a sing-along. MeetUp appears to have the widest selection and to be a member of a group costs about $5 a year. Lonely Planet also publishes a series of pocket-sized phrase books in several languages.

More Posts