Project Anna Pot
Anna Pot is a former member of the BALAB and received her PhD title in January 2019 at the University of Groningen with her project Aging in multilingual Netherlands - Effects on cognition, wellbeing and health which was supervised by Merel Keijzer and Kees de Bot.
Her project focused on aging in a multilingual environment which can contribute positively to cognition, but also has consequences for the wellbeing of older adults who age in an environment where the dominant language differs from their mother tongue. The dissertation reports on a large study towards the individual effects of multilingualism on executive functions. The second half of the dissertation reports on a qualitative study towards a potential language barrier for older Turkish women who age in the Netherlands.
The continuous suppression of a language in the multilingual mind is assumed to train the brain. However, it seems difficult to ascribe cognitive consequences directly to multilingualism, especially when comparing groups of mono- and multilinguals, thereby ignoring individual variability within the groups. This dissertation therefore posits to consider under which circumstances multilingualism contributes to cognitive performance within a diverse multilingual population. A high degree of quality of life, certain personality characteristics and the opportunity to use the different languages in various social environments leads to enhanced performance on a cognitive attention-task.
In interviews with older Turkish women it is observed that a low command of the second language (L2, Dutch) may lead to language anxiety. This has repercussions for the formation of L2 social relations, feelings of belonging and low levels of wellbeing. Being well-embedded in a social network (L1 or L2), however, can lower language anxiety. A language barrier and lower levels of wellbeing are therefore only reported for those adults who are linguistically dependent but do not have a social (support)network.
Link to Anna Pot's dissertation Aging in multilingual Netherlands - Effects on cognition, wellbeing and health