Your brain needs more “vitamin L2”

As I said more than once, plenty of people in Sardinia think that it would be a mistake to teach Sardinian in primary schools, because children wouldn’t be able to distinguish Italian from Sardinian and would have worse results in speaking their own language (which is Italian, in these people’s minds), due to the interferences. I am a native speaker of both Sardinian and Italian (call me bilingual if you like, but I may hold it against you!) and I have no troubles in speaking a perfect Italian. That is why I have always answered that I see these arguments as ridiculous, and that I wish I had been taught Sardinian when I was a child, so now I would be able to also write it and not only speak it.

I started studying a second language, French, when I was 11, and I had no problem whatsoever in keeping perfecting my Italian. Currently, children start learning English at school when they are 6, but no one has ever complained that studying this other language will affect their fluency in Italian, English is far too important and “cool”, it is fine to learn it. Sardinian is the language with the destructive superpower of undermining your syntactic and semantic knowledge of Italian!

I know, I love being polemic, but there is enough truth in what I say that I believe some sarcasm can be excused. Not only my knowledge of Sardinian has helped me with my Spanish studies, due to the fact that the two languages are really close, and that some words, obscure for other Italian speakers, are plain and clear for me; also, there are more positive sides on the fact of being bilingual. Recent studies from the University of Edinburgh demonstrate that learning a second language slows brain ageing and has a positive effect on cognitive abilities.

Some years ago, several studies, in particular an American-Canadian combined research, showed that bilingualism would delay the appearance of Alzheimer up to 4 years in older adults. Recent studies have also proved that people who speak more than one language would have better cognitive abilities than monolingual people would. The surprising factor is that this is not related to an early learning of the language, because the study found the same result both in people that learnt a second language before the age of 18, and in those who learnt it later in their lives.

Special improvements were found in general intelligence and reading. Now, I am wondering if what I thought was my own experience is actually something to re-write in my mind. It may seem silly, but I now see that my language studies and my reading interest can be more related than I thought. I haven’t read during all the primary school, and I kept borrowing books from the school library, and keeping them forever without opening them ever. Then, when I was 12, the council opened the town library, and I started spending my afternoons there, researching and borrowing books. Of course, the fact of having a new library was for me the only reason why I started enjoying reading, and devouring a book a day during the whole summer. Now I see that it happened immediately after closing the first year in which I started studying a foreign language; what if the two things are actually related and that was the boost my brain needed?

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