Learn French and Live Longer

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Learning French could save my life? I’m so glad to know this. I always thought it would just turn me into a snob.

Gain minutes, hours, days
Gain minutes, hours, days

I’m adding learning French to my bucket list as of today as part of my defiant attitude against aging that started when I turned fifty.

Ever since I achieved the big FIVE-O I’ve been enormously preoccupied with it and all the negatives associated with a slow, annoying death.

Periods of contemplation on the matter recently have surprisingly resulted in a few positive discoveries:

1) There is now a more flattering term for this section of  life. We don’t have to refer to it as “middle age” or “winter” (both of which conjure up visions of darkness, bleakness, DEAD of winter-ness). It is now called an “encore performance“. I can’t remember who coined the phrase, but I want him or her to win a Nobel prize.

2) AARP sends you free stuff. They coax you toward your encore performance with 1,000 free address labels, discounts on dining out, and articles (with photos) of celebrity members encouraging perseverance. All this implies that a) you aren’t going to be moving (you’ve retired and have nothing better to do than send snail mail; b) your culinary taste has declined to a point where Norm’s is your restaurant of choice, and c) you are in the company of beautiful people, like Sting, Stevie Nicks and Betty White. (Of course, when you die of old age you are in the company of beautiful people. They conveniently leave out that part. Those sneaky AARP-ers.)

3) My efforts to learn American Sign Language may result in longevity of my brain power. And French is next.

You should consider taking up another language, too. It could save your life.

This report just came out, by ROBERT PREIDT, reporting for CBS News HEALTHDAY June 3, 2014


Speaking two or more languages helps protect your brain as you age, even if you learn new languages as an adult, new research suggests.


The study included 835 people born in Scotland in 1936 whose first language was English. They were given mental skills tests at age 11 and again in their early 70s. Of the participants, 262 were able to speak at least two languages, with 195 of them learning a second language before age 18, and the rest after that age.


Those who spoke two or more languages did much better on the mental skills tests when they were older than what would be expected from the tests they took when they were younger, especially in the areas of general intelligence and reading, the study authors found.


The positive effects of bilingualism were seen whether people learned new languages when they were children or adults, the researchers noted in the report published online June 2 in the journal Annals of Neurology.

But, you say, bilingualism defies American stereotyping. You know the joke, “If you speak three languages, you’re tri-lingual. If you speak two, you’re bi-lingual. If you speak one, you’re American.” I’m okay with defying that stereotype if it helps me avoid senility, and allows me to win at Scrabble for another 40 years. Parlez-vous Francais? Wee wee.

THBby T.M. Burroughs


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