If you’ve ever wondered what the importance of learning a new language is and what the “bilingual advantages” are, keep reading to find out its benefits that might inspire and motivate you to learn a new language!
Knowing more than one language allows you to communicate with people abroad, understand what they’re saying, and bond with whoever speaks the language. Another advantage that comes with being bilingual is the ability to talk to someone you never thought you’d be able to communicate with within their native tongue. You can also impress people with your language skills, which is always a social advantage!
Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to shift between mental sets, in cognitive tasks and interactions (Corretjer et al, 2019). Since bilinguals or multilingual go back and forth between two or more languages, they demonstrate enhanced cognitive flexibility and tend to shift between tasks more easily than monolinguals.
In addition, bilingual children demonstrate higher cognitive flexibility and executive control (attention, planning, problem-solving, etc.) than monolingual children.
Bilingual people process information in the environment better than monolinguals, due to their superior cognitive processing. Moreover, bilinguals are prone to learn the third language more easily than monolinguals learn a second language since bilingual people are able to access newly learned vocabulary more readily.
Executive functioning and cognitive control are referred to as one’s ability to plan, focus, pay attention, remember, and juggle multiple tasks. Bilingualism trains the brain to heightened executive and cognitive functioning.
One of the surprising benefits of knowing multiple languages is verbal and nonverbal creative thinking.
Brain muscles get stronger the more you train them with the new language’s complexities.
Language skills boost one’s problem-solving abilities.
Moreover, people who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving, critical-thinking and listening skills, and enhanced concentration.
Multilingual people are more confident in their decisions than their monolingual counterparts.
Moreover, studies show that decisions made in your second language are more rational than those made in your native language since you’re more prone to refrain from the emotionality that can be embedded in or linked to your mother tongue.
Speaking in a new language will get you out of your comfort zone. The process of mastering a language includes making many mistakes such as speech errors, writing, grammatical or spelling errors, but persevering regardless of those errors to reach your goal of learning a second or new language will slowly but surely boost your confidence.
Furthermore, knowing a language is a skill to be proud of as you would have a larger linguistic repertoire. Impressive, right?
Moreover, the confidence you feel when talking to a native speaker makes learning the language all worth your while.
Knowing several languages opens up more opportunities for human connection and interaction.
You can ingratiate yourself with locals of a country and meet, converse, and connect with new people.
Understanding a nation’s culture, which includes their language, makes a person more empathetic and accepting of others.
Studies show that children who have learned a foreign language demonstrate more openness and express positive attitudes towards the culture associated with that language.
Bilingualism provides a means to combat the natural decline of cognitive function.
Research shows that older bilingual people have improved memory (Marian, 2012) compared to monolingual people, which leads to health benefits.
Bilinguals are shown to display an advantage on working memory tasks. Working memory is the ability to temporarily store a limited amount of information (Cowan, 2005).
Bilingualism and being proficient in more than one language can prevent diseases that affect memory and can protect one against diseases that hasten cognitive functioning decline like Alzheimer’s disease.
Learning a second language helps with academic achievement in areas of reading and writing literacy, comprehension skills in language arts, math, writing, science, etc.
Learning a new language also improves a student’s academic performance in areas of higher standardized test scores, expanded vocabulary in one’s native language, and higher academic performance at the college level.
You might question why you have to learn a specific language in school now, but you will reap the benefits later.
Learning the expressions of other languages will give you insight into different cultures, different perspectives, and can offer positive attitudes which can improve overall wellbeing. Thus, by developing different ways of thinking, learning a new language offers psychological benefits as well.
As you learn more about the foreign language’s grammar, vocabulary, idioms, you’ll begin to understand similarities and differences of sentence structure between languages as you become more aware of the nuances of a language.
While before, you wouldn’t have been able to explain the abstract grammatical rules and structure of your native language as it comes more intuitively and like second nature.
Regularly switching between languages, known as code-switching, helps the brain maintain focus and avoid distractions.
In addition, researchers have shown that bilingualism positively affects conflict management in infants as young as seven months. So, learning languages at a young age has mental benefits.
Knowing more than one language sets you apart and gives you a competitive advantage over monolingual candidates.
People who are proficient in more than one language are in high demand in the job market across all industries for they are considered as better problem solvers and communicators, which can differentiate them.
Bilingual people flexibly adapt to current task demands more easily than their monolingual counterparts.
Whether you’re on team ‘multitasking’ or not, or whether you believe that multitasking is efficient and relieves stress or the contrary, people who have the ability to think in different languages and shift between them are much better at juggling multiple things at once. So, either way, if you’re bilingual, you have this added skill.
Differences in wording, terminology, and expressions across languages might be tricky for multilingual people. This drives them to be more alert toward their surroundings and to pay attention to body language and social cues; thus, strengthening their emotional and social intelligence. For example in Polish, where the word “no” actually means “yes” or “yeah,” watching body language can help you determine that “no oczywiście!” actually means “of course!”
Knowing more than one language can benefit you in ways you might not have expected. The “bilingual advantage” includes not only social and cognitive benefits but also academic, career, and health benefits. So, it’s safe to say that it’s always good to learn a new language.
Fritz, G. K. (2016). The benefits of being bilingual. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 32(5), 8-8 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cbl.30126
Fox, R., Corretjer, O., & Webb, K. (2019). Benefits of foreign language learning and bilingualism: An analysis of published empirical research 2012–2019. Foreign Language Annals, 52(4), 699-726. https://doi.org/10.1111/flan.12424
Marian, V. (2012, October 31). The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583091/Eton Institute.Top 10 Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language. Retrieved from https://etoninstitute.com/blog/top-10-benefits-of-learning-a-foreign-language
Rosetta Stone. 6 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language. Retrieved from https://www.rosettastone.co.uk/magazine/6-surprising-benefits-of-learning-a-language/