Learning a Foreign Language: A Review on Recent Findings About Its Effect on the Enhancement of Cognitive Functions Among Healthy Older Individuals

Abstract

Currently, there is an increasing number of older population groups, especially in developed countries. This demographic trend, however, may cause serious problems, such as an increase in aging diseases, one of which is dementia whose main symptom consists in the decline of cognitive functioning. Although there has been ongoing pharmacological research on this neurological disorder, it has not brought satisfying results as far as its treatment is concerned. Therefore, governments all over the world are trying to develop alternative, non-pharmacological strategies/activities, which could help to prevent this cognitive decline while this aging population is still healthy in order to reduce future economic and social burden. One of the non-pharmacological approaches, which may enhance cognitive abilities and protect against the decline in healthy older population, seems to be the learning of a foreign language. The purpose of this mini-review article is to discuss recent findings about the effect of foreign language learning on the enhancement of cognitive functions among healthy older individuals. The findings, divided into three research areas, show that the learning of a foreign language may generate a lot of benefits for older individuals, such as enhancement of cognitive functioning, their self-esteem, increased opportunities of socializing, or reduction of costs. However, as Ware et al. (2017) indicate, any intervention program on foreign language learning should be well thought of and tailored to the needs of older people in order to be effective and avoid accompanying factors, such as older people’s anxiety or low self-confidence. Nevertheless, more empirical studies should be done in this area

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