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Travel Cultures Language

Being Bilingual Builds Brain Power

by Sheron Long on September 24, 2012

“Rainy Day in Paris” © Sheron Long  If video does not display, click here.

French? You Can Learn It!

Chatting in a French café makes for a good day even in the rain. Chatting in a French café in French is worth even more—knowing the language deepens how you experience the life and culture.

Benefits of Being Bilingual

A brain lifting weights to signify bilingual brain power

Flex your brain with a second language and build bilingual brain power
© Thinkstock

Connecting across cultures is one benefit of being bilingual, but there are many more.

A study released last spring by Northwestern University and other recent research show that people who speak more than one language have an increased ability to concentrate, to multi-task, and to set priorities. They may also be building strong defenses against dementia.

So . . . if you’re someone who would love to build bilingual brain power, get started—it may be easier than you think!

The Power of Cognates

Take French, for example, which has many words in common with English. Such words are called cognates, and you can use them to learn a second language.

Try it! Here’s a paragraph from France-Amérique about Julia Child who had many careers but found her love of cooking in Rouen, France. She would have turned 100 this last August. As you read about Julia Child, see how many French words look familiar to you:

Julia Child a eu plusieurs vies : rédactrice, volontaire pour la croix-rouge, agent secret… Mariée à Paul Child, un représentant des affaires étrangères américaines, elle part pour Paris à l’âge de 37 ans. Pour la petite histoire, c’est au cours d’une promenade à Rouen qu’elle a sa révélation culinaire, en goûtant une sole meunière accompagnée de vin. Ce repas sera comme « une ouverture de son âme et de son esprit » pour elle.

Does this list of cognates help?

volontaire / volunteer

agent secret / secret agent

mariée / married

représentant / representative

affaires étrangères américaines / American foreign (stranger) affairs

âge / age

histoire / history, story

au cours d’une promenade / in the course of a promenade

révélation / revelation

sole meunière accompagnée de vin / sole meunière accompanied by wine

esprit / spirit

Oh I know, there are still gaps to fill in, but in an “Oh, I see” moment, did you realize that you already know about 25% of the French in this article? That’s a pretty good start! Maybe it’s time for a ticket to Paris.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


One thought on “Being Bilingual Builds Brain Power

  1. I recently moved to Austin, and my roommates are fluent in Spanish! I find it funny that with my background in French, some words are very similar and others are so different! In example- gato in Spanish means cat and gateau in French means cake!

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