There have been a few articles recently looking at cerebral development in multilingual people and what this may mean for their later lives and how their brain processes certain things. One Important distinction made across the papers was whether people had grown up bilingually, either as foreigners in a certain country or having parents of different nationalities, in which case there was never an active “choice” to be bilingual; it had been around since before they could remember. The other class was people who had moved abroad later in their lives or began a career in languages after the language processing parts of their brains had developed in their native tongue which they then needed to train to allow secondary languages to come forth.
One Study, Looked at the value decisions made by bilingual people, in each respective language, it found that when working in which ever language was the most secondary/ non-native people were more inclined to detach emotionally and use logical arguments in answering questions, particularly ones with moral implications. This is fascinating as it would seem to implicate the Left hemisphere of the brain which tends to deal with the more analytical logic based approach, leaving the right side of the brain, the “Feeling” half, where snap value judgments and “gut Feelings” are thought to originate. More advanced work has looked at putting Multilingual People in Mri scanners and has located some people in which different languages are compartmentalized in regions across the brain.
This is all fascinating as It can show us how the brain adapts to inputs and how the synapses and their pathways may alter when a new process is learnt. Another study has shown that when speaking in a secondary language, speakers may unconsciously suppress negative words, choosing not to process them in the same language as the rest of whatever they are reading, thus keeping it mentally separate and distancing themselves from emotional aspects. This has some funny consequences such as, swear words often seem milder in a foreign tongue, Which I feel is true however holds the caveat of context, which may change the severity of swearing drastically and often is much more subtle.
The regulation of 2 spatially independent language centers in the brain also has the advantage that bilingual people develop the ability to subconsciously over-ride brain processes by “switching” between languages. Psychologists thing thists on:off attitude is vital for epople who like to ahve many tasks all going on at the same time as it allows them to switch between tasks and come back to things later . It has also been found that there may be a link between speaking foreign languages and reduction of Alzheimer’s as it keeps the brain active, as well as increasing exam results( whatever that means).
This is all fascinating research and goes to show that speaking another language is a great this, it also brings cultural knowledge and generally opens up horizons. so why not go and learn a language …. Pourquoi Pas ?