The Benefits of Being Bilingual
Language is present in every aspect of our lives. We use it to communicate and connect with people, express our culture and experience the world around us. If you can do all of that by knowing just one language, imagine how much richer all your experiences could be if you spoke two languages or more!
According to the Associated Press, up to 66 percent of children worldwide are raised bilingual and there are many studies proving the benefits of this kind of upbringing. Not only does knowing more that one language help with brain development, but it also provides social and emotional benefits. Even though it can sometimes be hard to learn a new language, the short-term and long-term benefits are well worth the work.
Bilingual brains are better at task management
When someone is bilingual, both languages are active in their brain at all times… That’s a lot of words! To avoid getting all your languages mixed up, the brain develops and fine-tunes its attention and inhibition abilities. This means that you’re able to focus on one language at a time even though there are many of them present. As a result, bilingual people are usually better at managing conflicting tasks and switching back and forth between them.
Being bilingual means learning better
Since multilingual people have better attention and inhibition abilities, they tend to process the information around them better and more clearly. This leads them to being better learners. As a matter of fact, most bilingual adults have an easier time learning a third language than those who only know one and want to learn a second.
Brains of bilingual people age better
One of the most talked-about effects of being bilingual is that it helps slow down cognitive decline. Essentially, your brain works better for longer. Knowing more than one language is shown to improve memory and protect against illnesses, like Alzheimer’s disease, that worsen cognitive decline.
There’s always a “but…”
Of course, being bilingual or a polyglot is not without its set of challenges. Such speakers sometimes find themselves in “tip-of-the-tongue” states. How many times have you told yourself: “I definitely know this word! It starts with an M, doesn’t it? It’s on the tip of my tongue!”. On the bright side, at least you can say that in many languages, too!
The great thing about the benefits of being bilingual is that you can enjoy them even if you learn a second language later in life. Every language you learn leads you to greater creativity and allows you to experience a culture firsthand, through its native tongue. Being able to communicate with a whole new culture of people means that you can have a better understanding of everything that makes them unique – and you can teach them about your own unique heritage, too!
Marian, Viorica and Anthony Shook. “The cognitive benefits of being bilingual.” Cerebrum: The Dana forum on brain science vol. 2012 (2012): 13.
Stern, Yaakov. “Cognitive reserve in ageing and Alzheimer's disease.” The Lancet. Neurology vol. 11,11 (2012): 1006-12. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70191-6
Associated Press. (2001). Some facts about the world's 6,800 tongues. Retrieved September 9, 2019