Some of you will know I’m a rather passionate about dementia. Or rather preventing it and / or dealing with it (palliative care).

I became aware of the problem that dementia causes some years ago. I became a Dementia Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society to find out more and help out.

First of all, what is dementia? It’s a syndrome associated with the ongoing decline of the brain.

Here’s the problem – 1 in 3 people over 65 will develop dementia and 2 in 3 people with dementia are women (NHS Choices > About Dementia). And it’s very costly (around $225 billion in America and expected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050 – just in the US) – Alzheimer’s Association > Facts and Figures. And there’s no cure.

Given all this depressing stuff – what can we do to prevent or delay it?

Taking a look at the Alzheimer’s Association website is pretty bleak. There are no treatments.

But here’s something rather interesting. Speaking two languages delayed dementia diagnosis by five years. Those speaking three languages were diagnosed 6.4 years later. Those fluent in four languages had nine years of healthy cognition. This is not saying that learning extra languages masked dementia. Being multilingual provides a “cognitive reserve” that delays the onset of dementia. Why is this not being promoted more by Alzheimer and Dementia organisations? Note that other “brain training” games do next to nothing. And the “critical period hypothesis” (which states that you can only learn languages in your childhood) is just plain rubbish. See Delaying Onset of Dementia: Are Two Languages Enough? from the National Institutes of Health.

So, I’m aiming to be fluent in five languages. Here are the four languages I aim to learn (in addition to English):

  • Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Spanish
  • Pashto (the native tongue of my Dad)
  • French (I did this at school so already have the basics)

Want to learn another language? See BBC > How to learn 30 languages.

Yes, learning another language is hard. But take a look at this page for help on making the whole process of learning easier – Supercharge how you learn.