What are the benefits of being bilingual?
There’s no doubt that having a second language under your belt comes with countless benefits. In fact, in 2015, 64.7 million people over the age of 5 spoke a language other than English at home, with an increasing number of them fully proficient in English (languagemagazine.com). In the world of education, there’s often a common misconception that bilingual students have a harder time learning to read and write than those who are fully focused on one language. However, there is growing evidence that bilingual students may pick up reading skills faster than their monolingual peers!
If you’re deciding whether or not to teach your child a second language, there are numerous reasons to support their language education. Research shows that teaching a second language can increase analytical skills, cognitive development, global and cultural awareness, and, of course, job potential.
Learning and practicing a new language comes with countless opportunities for cognitive development as children learn to switch between multiple languages. Not mention, children who learn a second language have improved memory, better problem-solving skills, and sharpened listening ability as they must constantly monitor which language is being spoken. The ability to switch between languages also improves their overall flexibility and likeliness to adapt to new environments. Research has shown that this will continue into old age, helping to prevent potential mental decline.
Those who are bilingual or multilingual also have improved decision-making skills as they may be able to separate themselves from immediately emotional responses and think through situations logically.
Bilingual or multilingual individuals are able to communicate with a broader number of people in their own language. Being able to communicate with grandparents or other family members that may speak another language is a rewarding gift to give them and shows that you appreciate their native tongue. This has implications for personal and professional setting as bilingual people can build and strengthen friendships and workplace relationships with an ease of communication and greater understanding. With an understanding of language comes a door to cultural awareness and appreciation. Simply being able to connect to others on this level is a rewarding and enriching experience that can broaden a child’s global knowledge and will allow them to travel and adapt more easily.
According to this 2008 study, people who speak more than language may exhibit different personality traits depending on which language they are speaking. With various languages come altered dimensions of personality and an ability to explore different emotional responses. In this particular study, women who spoke both English and Spanish tended to see themselves as more assertive when speaking Spanish than when speaking English. Some have extrapolated that speaking a different language evokes the sense of cultural custom that comes with that language. Having knowledge of multiple would make an individual more multi-faceted and allow them to explore different traits and characteristics.
Often considered one of the most important benefits of being bilingual, job prospects are a huge factor to consider when choosing to learn another language. Not only are employers more likely to hire an individual that is bilingual, but those who are bilingual are also opened up to an entirely new realm of jobs and opportunities. Wanting to travel for work, manage a global team or business, or simply work as a translator? Learning another language is invaluable, particularly in modern-day where so many teams work virtually and on a transglobal level.
Why learn young?
So there are obvious advantages to learning a second language, but why start from a young age? Research shows that children are more likely to soak up all of the cognitive, social, and emotional benefits when learning young. As a child, the brain is still developing so it is much easier to absorb up new words, phrases, and songs, even subconsciously. Children have much more free time to devote to language learning and can achieve mastery much faster. Plus, learning a second language can help kids look at things from different perspectives allowing them to solve problems creatively, a skill they will take with them for the rest of their lives!