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The Power of Two

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Published July 28, 2014 12:01 PM by Eleanor Wolfram
As a life-long benefit of your high school language requirement, surely you recognize the English version of one or more of these foreign questions: Sprechen Sie deutsch? (German); Parlez-vous francais? (French); and Habla usted espanol? (Spanish).

Aside from being able to order a meal or ask directions when one travels to foreign lands, neurologists have found that bilingualism is also helpful to aphasia sufferers. Aphasia, often caused by strokes or a brain injury, is an impairment that causes inability to use or comprehend words.

But thanks to rehabilitation and neurology collaborative studies, it seems that researchers have discovered that when a person speaks at least two languages and that person experiences brain damage, the less dominant language can be utilized to transfer knowledge to the primary language, thereby helping with the rehabilitation phase.

Without getting too technical, beneficial rehab treatment comes from the cognitive connections of   similar sounding words in both languages creating likes between phonology, syntax and vocabulary. Scientists are calling this connection a "structural overlap" between languages. 

On a different health topic from an equally interesting research approach, a geriatric epidemiological theory has been put forth that speaking a second language could prevent later-life dementia and cognitive decline.

I think just these two health research findings alone should strengthen the language course requirements in all educational institutions.

posted by Eleanor Wolfram

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