Learn a language, live longer? An investigation into views on late-life language learning and an experimental study on its cognitive and social benefits

Marith Assen, Rhomé Busstra


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In a society in which the number of older adults is rapidly increasing, healthy ageing is becoming more and more important. Since the bilingual cognitive advantage has been a well-known concept for several years, this study investigated whether learning a language in late adulthood could have cognitive benefits for older adults (>65) who have not been bilingual throughout their lives. Two studies were conducted, the first of which concerned a language learning history questionnaire which inquired after older adults’ previous language learning experiences and their views on language learning in later adulthood. Study II investigated the potential cognitive benefits of a communicative ten-hour English language course taught to a group of 10 older adults over the course of two weeks. Before and after the course, three cognitive tests were administered: the Corsi Block Tapping Task, the Flanker task, and the Modified Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Moreover, mental well-being was assessed using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale. It was found that even a brief language course can significantly improve participants’ inhibitory control and task switching. No significant changes in working memory or mental well-being could be found, although this might be due to the duration and participants of this study. Language learning, therefore, seems to have great potential in preventing cognitive decline in later adulthood, but more extensive research is needed necessary to further explore its benefits.
Originele taal-2English
UitgeverijScience Shop, University of Groningen
Aantal pagina's120
StatusPublished - jul.-2018

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