Bilingualism was once thought of as a handicap as late as the 1960’s that slowed down a child’s ability to speak because they had to spend extra time switching between two different languages. Scientists strongly believed that there were no postive aspects of bilingual children and thus created a social stigma around it. While there is still concern that there are some negative aspects like slower reactions in cross-language exams, there have been increasingly positive views in the scientific world as well. Fortunately, now it is considered to be an additional strength that not only help helps you linguistically navigate your way between two or more cultures. It also has been scientifically proven to increase higher density in the gray matter in your brain and ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s for up to five years. Here are some other benefits of being a bilingual that are highlighted in the video:
1. There are different components of bilingualism
Individuals who speak more than one language know that there language ability is measure in two parts: active and passive. The active part consists of speaking and writing, while the passive is listening and reading.
2. There are different types of bilinguals
Individuals use their bilingualism in different ways, according to their particular situation and how often they use their second language. For people who can write, read, and speak two languages almost equally, this is considered balanced bilingualism. Compound bilinguals are small children and are learning two languages simultaneously with only one set of concepts to understand the world around them.
Coordinate bilinguals are usually older children who are learning a language with two sets of concepts by using their second language at school, but continue to speak their native language at home. Lastly, there are subordinate bilinguals who practice a second language by filtering it first through their native tongue.
3. You are never to old to learn a second language
Bilingual individuals know that there is no age limit on learning a new language well. It is true that younger children are better at learning languages, since they use both the right and left hemispheres in their brain and develop an emotional and social connection to new words and phrases. Adults use only their left hemisphere which is associated with analytical and logical reasoning to learn a new language and are more likely to use rational approaches and have less emotional attachment to words and phrases in their new language. This does not mean that bilingualism is only possible in children, since with hard work and constant effort adults can achieve this linguistic success as well.
4. Bilingualism helps boast executive function within the brain
The extra effort and cognitive activity that goes on within bilingual brains strengths the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for executive function which includes problem-solving, switching between tasks and being able to focus while filtering unnecessary information.
A study conducted by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, asked monolingual and bilingual preschoolers to organize red squares and blue circles into separate bins marked with blue squares and red circles on a computer screen. In the first test, the children had to sort them into the bins according to color. Both groups accomplished the task easily. The second test required the children to sort the shapes into the bins with the matching shape. This proved to be more difficult because there was conflicting colors, but the bilingual children completed the task quicker. This study proves that bilingual individuals have a better ability to complete complex tasks that require intense focus and holding onto crucial information that is necessary to follow through with a task.
Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com