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The benefits of being bilingual are numerous. I’ve gone through a lot of them in various places on this site, but I wanted to have one post that consolidated all of them. I will continuously update this post as I find more benefits and as new research is uncovered on the benefits of being bilingual. Or multilingual.
As a language activist (this is my pet name for myself!) I make it my mission to stress the benefits of being bilingual and why they are important in the world; today and going forward.The benefits of being bilingual are numerous, and a lot of them tend to slightly overlap each other, but I will do my best to lay them out in a succinct and easy-to-digest way. Additionally, if I have written in more depth about a certain benefit, I will link to that post. I intend for this to be a comprehensive post on all of the benefits of being bilingual.
I would assume that most people can realize the most obvious of the benefits of being bilingual; a person can communicate in two languages. That has to be good, right? While most people see it as a novelty, or something “neato,” our mission at LivingBilingual is to take it from the thats-so-cool sphere to the that’s-so-necessary sphere.
Let’s begin with this great video from Univision.
To recap and add to the video: Its a great workout for the brain.
It promotes mental agility and helps delay neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer Disease.
- Being Bilingual: The Neuroplastic Workout - A blog post written by yours truly where I discuss the physical changes in the brain due to the phenomenon that is bilingualism.
- Learning multiple languages serves as an enriching experience that optimizes the capacity of the brain. source here
- “Research has consistently shown that bilingual children typically have improved working memory (WM) and executive functioning abilities. These are important cognitive processes involved in learning, comprehension, and planning,” explained Turner. “Declines in WM are typical for many clinical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.” – from saludify.com
Future languages are easier to learn and the native language is actually enhanced as opposed to deteriorated.
- Is The Third Language Easier for Bilingual Children? – Another post by yours truly discussing a research study by the University of Haifa in Israel. It talks about monolingual learners vs bilingual learners and their ability to pick up a third language. Guess who wins?
- The aforementioned working memory, concentration, and capacity increases from being bilingual definitely increase the ability to learn another language.
- The enhanced ability to process sounds, another benefit of being bilingual, is a big advantage with regards to language acquisition.
Being bilingual actually has social and emotional benefits.
- According to the American Psychiatric Association, bilinguals can actually pay attention better. This combined with the optimized brain capacity and increased concentration through the neuroplastic workout really lends itself to learning better in general.
- Bilingual children also appear to internalize negative states less frequently. These include:
- Poor self-esteem
- Also, they externalize aggression, anger, and arguing less frequently. (source here)
Globalization and other trends lend themselves to the bilingual being more valuable in the future; especially with certain languages.
- Language Immersion Programs: Utah Makes a Splash – Another one of mine! Surprise! Anyway, this post talks about Utah deciding to enhance their language immersion programs due to the trend towards globalization and wanting to prepare their workforce for the “new world.”
- According to this Gallup poll, we are definitely heading in the direction of more bilingual education as opposed to less. Embrace it. Love it.
So how can I take advantage of the benefits of being bilingual for myself or my children?
As the world becomes more and more integrated and cultures collide, having a second or third language is going to become more commonplace in the US as it is in the rest of the world. Several options exist to help children receive a bilingual education; the best of which is to pick a parenting technique for bilingual children and teach them yourself if you can.
What are some other benefits and personal satisfactions from being bilingual?
I’ve had a great time reason the billboards, picking up on conversations in another language, and talking to my wife about whatever we want in front of people because they don’t understand!
I love to be able to travel to Mexico and Germany and converse in my “other languages.” Everyone wants to be able to speak another language, so enjoy it if you can!
Learn another language and then pass it on to your kids. It’s the greatest gift a parent can give.
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