In an increasingly multicultural and globalized world, bilingualism naturally empowers you with an opportunity to capitalise on a world that, while getting smaller and flatter, requires us to know more, not less.
There are many advantages with being bilingual – for one thing, it massively improves your golf swing. More seriously, some key advantages include
- More job opportunities: language learning has economic advantages, too: jobs are more easily available to those who speak several languages, and multilingual companies have a better competitive edge than monolingual ones
- Be brain fit: bilingualism makes the learning of additional languages easier, enhances the thinking process and fosters contacts with other people and their cultures
Because when you think about – and let us pause for a moment to let you monolinguists catch up – the mental workout of constantly balancing two competing languages makes it easier for bilinguals to process information. When you train the brain to accommodate two different languages, it means your brain is constantly negotiating between two tongues, leading to a natural increase in cognitive performance.
So, when it comes to qualities like sustained attention and switching between tasks effectively, bilinguals often come out ahead. Bilingualism serves as brain food and has real and positive consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory.
For many tasks, including ones that involve working memory, bilingual speakers seem to have an edge. In a review of the evidence supporting bilingualism and thinking, psychologist Ellen Bialystok, one of the leading researchers in this field, showed that bilinguals did indeed show enhanced executive control. “The bilingual mind is in constant conflict… For every utterance, a choice is made to focus on the target language, so there is a constant need to select.”
While, traditionally, bilingualism refers to children contending with two different languages, the key consideration for us ‘grown ups’, beyond the fact the obvious social benefits of being able to speak – and listen – to more people, is that being bilingual gives bestows one gift you cannot ignore: focus.
A second language enriches your capability to:
- better control your thoughts and behaviour
- target life goals
- cold-shoulder distractions and attention thieves
- be creative
In other words, the benefits of bilingualism for everyone from pre-schoolers to elderly adults extends beyond the sphere of language and into skills that we use in every aspect of our lives: bilingualism helps you think straight. And in a world drowning in information and experience, what better way to take control of your life navigation than enjoying the journey in not just one language, but two?
Some interesting facts about language learning:
- There are between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world – spoken by 7 billion people divided into 189 independent states
- There are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe – roughly 3% of the world’s total
- Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa
- At least half of the world’s population are bilingual or multilingual i.e. they speak two or more languages
Dream job, more money, a better brain: if you don’t already know a second language, it’s never too late to learn.
Related Blog Post: 6 Tips for Mastering a New Language