Friday, January 12, 2007

postheadericon Speaking in more than one tongue

This being the month of January, many bloggers are talking about new year resolutions. Some abhor making them, but I just love them and regardless of whether I keep them or not, I always make them. One of my resolutions this year is to learn a new language or atleast to go back and polish up my Arabic. I haven't acted upon this resolutions thus far (well, to be fair to me, it's only Jan 12), but after reading in today's Globe and Mail about how a knowledge of more than one language has been linked to a significant delay in the onset of dementia symptoms, I want to get to my Arabic classes NOW!

According to the article, a working knowledge of more than one language can help stave off dementia by atleast a few years! (Among the unilingual people studied, dementia began to appear in men at an average age of 70.8 and in women at 71.9. But among those who knew two or more languages, dementia did not begin to appear in men until an average age of 76.1 and in women until 75.1.)

Considering that this disease is incurable, it is heartening atleast to know that it can be deferred with the right mental activities. Working as an ER volunteer I have seen so many Alzheimer patients and what I see makes me very despondent. It's a terrible disease, both for the patient and for all the people that love him/her or who have to care for him/her.

Having said all of that, however, how does one practice a language other than English in North American society? I used to be fluent in Hindi but now I find myself floundering everytime I have to speak it because I don't speak it enough. Any ideas?


beenzzz said...

Good question!!! I would imagine that finding a community of Hindi speakers and practicing it might work. The sad thing for me is that I know just a handful of Hindi words. I'm more fluent in Spanish than Hindi. I hope that changes in the future.
As far as being multilingual as a means of staving off dementia. I can see this being true. It helps to increase brain activity. Some languages are artistically based (ex: Japanese) and some are mathematically based (Hindi and most other Indian languages). So, it's like a workout for the brain. Very interesting post, Lotus!!!

Parth said...

Interesting issue. If you have spent a large part of your life in India, like I have, where schooling teaches you multiple languages, you take this for granted. I guess the other comment recommended finding a community of HIndi speakers. I'd suggest singing songs in a different language, or maybe even taking up a class for a new language in a community college.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, beenzzz!

Yes, I realize that to speak Hindi proficiently again, I would need to be amongst Hindi speakers and hopefully that won't be too difficult to arrange - maybe I could volunteer in an old-age home or any other community service center in a predominantly South Asian immigrant area and see what happens. I could speak to my friends in Hindi, I suppose, but after years of speaking in English to each other, it does come out slightly

Spanish is a very helpful language to know. Did you learn it in school? What about Z. does she study in more than one language? Since French is Canada's other official language, many of the schools offer the French Immersion program and as a result my girls are good French speakers. My French is not too bad, but it's a struggle.

YOu will pick up a lot more Hindi when you're in India this spring.

Thanks for the very helpful comment, beenzzz.

Hi Parth and welcome! True, in India, I was speaking Hindi, Marathi and Gujarathi, and thought nothing of it. I really like the idea of learning songs in different languages....I will explore that suggestion some more. As I was writing this comment to you, I remember someone telling me of conversational Hindi classes in the might be a tad basic for me, but it will give me the opportunity to be among Hindi speakers which is what i need at the moment. How I wish I could start something like a "Socrates Cafe" where instead of philosophy a group of us meet and talk in a language we want to be fluent in. I'll bet these "Babel Cafes" exist - should look into it.

Thanks for the helpful input, Parth.

jacob said...

I've read that if a child learns more than one language before the age of three, she gorws nueral pathways that aid the ability to learn foreign tongues with ease as an adult. As to losing your hindi, Lotus, i used to be able to speak malayalam, gujarati, hindi and tamil before moving to singapore. now i find that my gujarati is going to the dogs. my solution? simple: i call my gujju friends up every now and then and insist on speaking in gujarati, whether they like/understand me or not.

Lotus Reads said...

hi, Jacob!

Wow, you are a regular polygot, I envy you! I do try calling up friends and speaking their language (gujarathi or marathi) but they dissolve into giggles before I'm even done with the first sentence! lol Obviously your command of gujarathi is far better than mine!

Thanks so much for the comment!


Its very difficult to keep with the resolution. Last year I tried learning Urdu , I went to classes for around a month and then dropout.

Lotus Reads said...

lol, I know, the experts say most resolutions are broken by jan 20. I have a solution for that though, I only make my resolutions towards the end of Jan, that way I break the jinx (hopefully! :)

iMan said...

This is actually an interesting article when you tie it in with more ideas. For example, on a global scale, English is the language du jour throughout the world. It helps people out most to know it. Now take this, in America because of the aforementioned notion, some individuals may not feel the need to learn other languages and indeed, I've personally noticed in Los Angeles that if you are second generation or older there is a strong likelihood you speak nothing but English.

I actually speak 3 languages and am learning a 4th. This is because I'm first generation but many people I know also don't care to learn another language because America has pushed the idea that English will get you everywhere.

I don't know if that could eventually lead to that degenerative disease, but if it did in every case it would be quite frightening.

It's also interesting to note that how this problem may have arisen. Perhaps in contemporary culture there is so little focus on beneficial brain stimulation rather than nonsensical stimulation like excessive tv watching or the like.

Good find though!

MotoRama said...

Date a smart, charming, intelligent guy from varied backgrounds(no pun intended) and speaking a different tongue( pun intended)! might lead to speaking in a totally different language..but hey..languages are remembered when u "practise" it enough...(this time i meant the pun ;) )....

Lotus Reads said...

Hello iMan Thanks for your observations. YOu speak three languages and are learning a fourth? Good on you! Can I ask which languages you speak?

I have to wonder if there are any studies to indicate the early onset of Alzheimers in countries of fewer spoken languages than those with many languages and's all very interesting.

And you're right - there is not much of an emphasis on learning new languages here in North America since you can get by with English everywhere you go. Wish they would promote languages in schools more.

Hey Motorama Are you available (since I happen to know you speak atleast 3 languages and have lived in various places) ;)

Seriously tho', dating people with language and cultural background different to one's own could be a great solution - wish I had thought of that when I was single! :)

Jeseem said...

aek aadh hindi doste bana lo,
3-4 maheeno mein hindi bashe ban javogi :)
interesting pursuit.
and best of luck

Lotus Reads said...

THanks, Jeseem, yes, that is the way to go! :)

And what about Bollywood movies??? One of the best ways to learn and speak the language, right? Nothing like Bollywood ishtyle! ;)