Best Practice

Languages keep you sharp in old age

As concern grows about the decline in the numbers of youngsters studying modern languages at school and university, a new survey has found that people who speak more than one language are more likely to stay sharp in old age.

Tests carried out on a group of native English speakers suggest that learning an additional language slows down the decline of thinking skills in later life.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, who examined the results of intelligence tests taken by a group of individuals who were born in 1936. 

The 853 people tested were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. All born and raised in Edinburgh, they took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 – when they were 11.

They were then tested again between 2008 and 2010 (when they were in their 70s), for changes in reasoning, memory, speed of thinking, fitness and health, eyesight and blood composition.

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