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The benefits of bilingualism

The benefits of bilingualism

Assessing the benefits of bilingualism   People of all ages are taking part in what may well be the most extensive project ever to assess the benefits of being bilingual.  Over 700 people aged between 2 and 80 are being recruited by Bangor University to explore what benefits our brains reap from being bilingual, in a three quarter million pound project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.   “The obvious benefits of being bilingual include being able to speak and converse in two languages and to participate in two cultures. Less obvious, however, is recent evidence showing that bilingualism has benefits also for abilities in non-language tasks.  The very act of being able to speak, listen, and think in two languages and of using two languages on a daily basis appears to sharpen people’s abilities to pay close attention to aspects of tasks relevant to good performance,” explains Prof. Virginia Gathercole. Some researchers have also found that bilingualism could also play a role in guarding against the decline in our brain’s abilities with ageing. “We already know that language processing is one of the most complex activities that our brains carry out; running two parallel language systems throughout life has had positive benefits in a number of ways,” she adds. “There is indeed evidence from Canada that being bilingual may provide some protection against age-related memory loss,” explained Dr. Enlli Thomas, collaborator on the project.    The Bangor research group are now seeking Welsh-English bilinguals and monolinguals aged over 60 to take part in the research.  Participants undertake a set of simple language tests and then carry out some on-screen puzzles and tasks.  Many of these are similar to those in hand-held “brain games”, which are said to exercise mental abilities. The researchers are seeking persons who grew up in homes where only Welsh was spoken, where both Welsh and English were spoken, or where only English was spoken.   Those interested in taking part in the research can contact Ms. Leah Jones, at leah.jones@bangor.ac.uk, or at 01248- 388892, or Ms. Emma Hughes, emma.hughes@bangor.ac.uk at 01248-383820 for further information. Participants will visit Bangor University or can be visited in their locality by a researcher. Participants receive £10 for taking part.

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