Aging in multilingual Netherlands: Effects on cognition, wellbeing and health

Anna Pot

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    Aging in a multilingual environment can contribute positively to cognition, but also has consequences for the wellbeing of older adults who age in an environment where the dominant language differs from their mother tongue. This dissertation reports on a large study towards the individual effects of multilingualism on executive functions. The second half of the dissertation reports on a qualitative study towards a potential language barrier for older Turkish women who age in the Netherlands.

    The continuous suppression of a language in the multilingual mind is assumed to train the brain. However, it seems difficult to ascribe cognitive consequences directly to multilingualism, especially when comparing groups of mono- and multilinguals, thereby ignoring individual variability within the groups. This dissertation therefore posits to consider under which circumstances multilingualism contributes to cognitive performance within a diverse multilingual population. A high degree of quality of life, certain personality characteristics and the opportunity to use the different languages in various social environments leads to enhanced performance on a cognitive attention-task.

    In interviews with older Turkish women it is observed that a low command of the second language (L2, Dutch) may lead to language anxiety. This has repercussions for the formation of L2 social relations, feelings of belonging and low levels of wellbeing. Being well-embedded in a social network (L1 or L2), however, can lower language anxiety. A language barrier and lower levels of wellbeing are therefore only reported for those adults who are linguistically dependent but do not have a social (support)network.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • de Bot, Cornelis, Supervisor
    • Keijzer, Merel, Supervisor
    Award date31-Jan-2019
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs978-94-034-1335-8
    Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-1334-1
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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