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

Anna Pot


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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.
    Originele taal-2English
    KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
    Toekennende instantie
    • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
    • de Bot, Cornelis, Supervisor
    • Keijzer, Merel, Supervisor
    Datum van toekenning31-jan-2019
    Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
    Gedrukte ISBN's978-94-034-1335-8
    Elektronische ISBN's978-94-034-1334-1
    StatusPublished - 2019

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