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A New Year Resolution : Delaying Dementia through Language Learning

Happy New Year, everyone.

How many of you have made New Year resolutions ? What are they ? Let me guess - stop smoking, do more exercise, go on a diet, read more books or in my case, floss more! Yes, I visited the dentist today and I’m ashamed to confess that I am a lapsed flosser! Oh the joy!

How about delaying the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s as a New Year Resolution? Before you think I must be going mad (!), let’s consider the other resolutions we make each and every year.

Most of us will choose resolutions that relate to our physical health and fitness. We might decide to join a gym, exercise three times a week, eat more healthily and drink less. All this so that we have healthier bodies.

But what about our mental health? We are all living longer which on the one hand is wonderful news, so long as we stay fit and healthy, but on the other hand, it brings new challenges such as lower mental capabilities. How can we overcome the slowing down of our mental faculties?

Many studies have shown that playing games like bridge, sudoku, chess and doing crossword puzzles can maintain our mental agility. Anything that exercises and challenges the brain is a positive thing.

Learning a language can also provide excellent mental benefits as it makes us more articulate, helps our concentration and makes us better multi-taskers. (As concluded by a study carried out by Judith Kroll, a psychologist at Penn State University).

More recently however, a study conducted by researchers in York University,Canada* has concluded that learning and speaking a second language could delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How exactly can learning a language do this? As our brain works to learn the new vocabulary and conversational skills, new neural pathways are created which improve brain and memory faculties. The same way regular exercise helps keep our heart healthy, exercising our brain with language lessons helps it fight off Alzheimer’s Disease.

So why not commit to learning a new language and keeping your brain young and healthy this year? It’s never too late to start.


Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat graduated in Politics and International Studies from the University of Southampton, UK in 1989. After 20 years in the world of Finance in such varied fields as life assurance, stockbroking, fund management, and wealth management, she decided to re-train as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Trainer. She studied for the CELTA at International House, London in 2009 and has since been a freelance English Language Trainer both offline and online.

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