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Research Finds That Bilingual People Are Smarter, More Creative And Empathetic

Research Finds That Bilingual People Are Smarter, More Creative And Empathetic

Language is the soul of a culture. Think about the old anecdote about how the Inuit people have multiple words for “snow”. Or think about how the ability to understand a language is a crucial prerequisite for historians, and those who study international affairs. Those people focus on language because they know that without the language, they cannot truly understand the cultures they study.

But those who learn more than one language are not just more knowledgeable about the world around them. Bilingual speakers are better thinkers, more creative, and are better at understanding people. It is a valuable gift that every person, no matter what stage they are at in their lives, should attempt to master for themselves.

They Are Smarter Than Average

It may seem obvious that a person who speaks two languages is smarter than a person who speaks one. But the results can be surprising. A medical study showed that bilingual children were better at solving puzzles compared to monolingual children. Also, in a study of elderly people conducted by the University of California, bilingual individuals proved to be more resistant to the negative impacts of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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The brain is a muscle, and it is theorized that the effort of learning a language strengthens it, in a manner similar to how swimming and running can improve a person’s lungs and heart. As the New York Times declared in their report on these studies, being bilingual “can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.”

They Have Unique Ways Of Looking At The World

Bilingualism does not just improve a person’s ability to solve puzzles. It also improves their creativity and grants them new ways of seeing the world that they might have never thought about before.

As someone who speaks English and Japanese, let us use one of the simplest words in a language – “I.” The Japanese language possesses over 100 variations of the word “I,” though about only half a dozen are used today.

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So, what is the difference between all of these variations? Some of these variations are only used by men. Some of them are used only by women, and some are used by both genders. Some are used by only young children, or by those speaking to their superiors within a particular hierarchy.

But the key thing is that each “I” is only used by a certain social group, and to use one “I” or another shows where you belong in the social hierarchy. In Japanese society, which can often be hierarchical, language helps to reinforce this hierarchy.

It is one thing to read a book which talks about the Japanese social hierarchy and how it is part of everyday life. It is another thing to experience it for yourself. Understanding how pervasive that hierarchy can be cannot be fully grasped without understanding the language.

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They Are More Creative

As shown above, bilingualism can help your brain to think in different ways, using different perspectives. These ways of thinking can help liberate one’s creativity. As Psychology Today observes, bilingualism is a great way to access “new experience, new thought, new vision, and new solutions.” Moreover, a medical study conducted in 2012 showed that bilingual children were both better problem solvers and creative thinkers.

Bilingualism is a wonderful gift. It improves a speaker’s mind, both when they are young and old. It encourages them to see the world in a different light, and understand cultures in a way which just reading a book could never accomplish. There are also practical benefits of knowing two languages from a business and career perspective.

If you are not bilingual, it is never too late to learn. A person does not need to be completely fluent to earn the benefits of bilingualism, just as a person does not need to be an Olympic-class athlete to gain the physical benefits of a good diet and exercise.

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Featured photo credit: Joseph McKinley via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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