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Surprising Science

Bilingual Brain Boon

When the brain juggles two—or more—languages, there are positive consequences for the brain, says Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto.

In our country of mostly monolingual citizens, bilingual education too often carries political undertones. But are there demonstrable benefits to speaking two languages, benefits beyond a deepening of the human experience? According to recent research: “Constant back-and-forth between two linguistic systems means frequent exercise for the brain’s so-called executive control functions, located mainly in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain tasked with focusing one’s attention, ignoring distractions, holding multiple pieces of information in mind when trying to solve a problem, and then flipping back and forth between them.”


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