Does learning Spanish lessen the risk of expat dementia

Published:  5 Jun at 6 PM
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Learning the language of your chosen retirement destination is a real challenge for many newly-arrived expats, but keeping at it could mean your brain stays young over the years to come.

Recent research by a team at Edinburgh University has revealed that becoming reasonably proficient in an unfamiliar language is one of the best ways to avoid the brain’s ageing process. Surprisingly, the study revealed it didn’t matter whether a new language was studied early or late in life – the benefits remained the same.

The 262 volunteers for the study were chosen for their competency in at least one foreign language and had English as their mother tongue. Only 65 of the participants had learned their new language in adulthood, with the rest learning their second language in their teens or younger.

The results of the first tests showed that those with a second language were able to express themselves more fluently, eloquently and with a wider use of vocabulary in their mother tongue. The group was found to have a higher IQ and increased cognitive abilities than those without a second language.

Most importantly, especially for expats shy of attempting to learn the language of their host county, cognitive abilities in general diminished far more slowly and at a greater age than in those without another language. The study team believe that the onset of dementia may also be slowed in those with a risk of the dreaded condition.

According to the researchers, more studies are needed to determine the links between the process of language-learning and improved cognitive skills. In the meantime, older expats in Spain, France and Italy shouldn’t find the task too challenging, whilst those in Asian expat hotspots such as Thailand, China and Japan may wish they’d decided to move elsewhere!
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