“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”- Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher
Did you know that 56% of all Europeans are bilingual, while Americans and British are at the bottom of the league with only about 20%? Actually, Bill Gates feels “pretty stupid” because he is monolingual, but that certainly did not prevent him from becoming a billionaire!
Numbers and anecdotes aside, being bilingual makes you smarter, according to many research studies. Basically, your brain is more active and your cognitive skills improve as you learn new languages. As an added bonus, you may actually be able to delay the onset of dementia in old age. Here are the main points from the most important studies on the advantages of being bilingual.Advertising
Bilinguals are sharper thinkers
Samuel Beckett, the great Irish playwright, is a superb example. Although a native English speaker, he decided to write all his first drafts in French, as he was bilingual. He then translated them back into English. He explained that this forced him out of his usual, predictable writing style habits. Using the second language forced him to be much more critical and aware of what he was writing.
Researchers at the University of Chicago wondered if Beckett was an exceptional case or if bilinguals really are sharper thinkers. Their research showed that bilinguals were indeed less biased in making their decisions and were sharper when having to make choices as to style and selection of vocabulary. They were, in a way, forced to think outside the box. They were also better at making more rational decisions.
Bilinguals have better working memory
Ellen Bialystok is a researcher at York University, Toronto. She and her colleagues set out to show that bilinguals have certain advantages in mental processing. They found that bilinguals are better at switching their attention when multi-tasking and are also better at paying attention in general. It did not matter whether the tasks were connected to language or not.Advertising
This type of mental processing is known as executive control. This control plays a vital part in childhood academic achievement which in turn benefits overall health and well-being. The researchers also noticed that bilinguals are better at sifting out irrelevant information since they frequently have to deal with interference from other languages.
Bialystok conducted another study which showed that this great advantage extended well into old age and was a factor in helping to stave off dementia. The faster reaction and better memory of the elderly participants was a marked feature of the bilinguals in the study.
“We have even found that bilinguals with Alzheimer’s disease maintain surprisingly good ability to access names in a non-dominant language.” – Tamar Gollan, University of California, San Diego
Bilinguals have more gray matter
As we know, the more gray matter we have in our brains the better, as it helps us process information we receive, especially for intellectual activity. Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC also found that bilinguals (Spanish/English) had more gray matter in their brains than those who were using English/ ASL (American Sign Language).
“Unlike the findings for the Spanish-English bilinguals, we found no evidence for greater gray matter in the ASL-English bilinguals.” – Dr. Olumide Olulade, lead author of the above study.
The management of two spoken languages was regarded by researchers as being a key factor in the growth of gray matter. It is generally accepted that our brains adapt as a result of new experiences.Advertising
They also observed that London taxi drivers have more gray matter too, although that has more to do with their spatial navigation skills rather than knowing two or more languages.
Are you ready to start learning another language?
Most of the research studies indicate that you do not have to be bilingual from childhood. Even learning a second language in later life can give you many of the advantages cited above. It is time to start talking to the world.
“We seem to be on a constant quest to keep America a country of citizens who can only talk to one another.” – Kari Martindale
Featured photo credit: One brain, two minds/ Gwydion M.Williams via flickr.com
Last Updated on November 18, 2021
10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character
We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.
A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.
So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:
- kind and compassionate
- capable of taking the blame
- able to persevere
- modest and humble
- pacific and can control anger.
The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.
1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?
All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.
But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.
2. Can you witness acts of kindness?
How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?
I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.
“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”
Abigail Van Buren
3. How does this person take the blame?
Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.
4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.
You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.
5. Read their emails.
Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:
- Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
- Frequent errors may indicate apathy
- Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
- Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
- Too many question marks can show anger
- Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of people still use them.
6. Watch out for the show offs.
Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity! Another person to avoid.
7. Look for evidence of perseverance.
A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.
Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.
8. Their empathy score is high.
Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.
People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.
9. Learn how to be socially interactive.
We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.
“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”
10. Avoid toxic people.
These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:
- Envy or jealousy
- Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
- Complaining about their own lack of success
- Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
- Obsession with themselves and their problems
Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.
Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?
Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com