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Say ‘sí’ to learning a new language

language studentIt’s time to brush up on that high school Spanish! In addition to the other potential benefits of learning a second language — like improved listening and problem-solving skills — scientists say being bilingual can actually help protect the brain from age-related mental decline. In a study of 853 adults whose cognitive abilities were tested at age 11 and again in their early 70s, researchers found significant improvements in expected cognitive performance among those who had acquired a second language. Bilinguals gained the biggest boost in general intelligence, verbal fluency and reading skills. And the benefits were cumulative: People who knew three or more languages experienced a greater protective effect than those who knew two.

The best news: Now’s the time to learn! The positive effects of bilingualism were seen whether the new language was learned as a child or an adult. So enroll in that community class you’ve been thinking about or try the self-teaching route with free online tutorials, such as those listed on Open Culture. Your brain will say “gracias.”