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7 Reasons Why Learning A Second Language Makes You A Better Person

7 Reasons Why Learning A Second Language Makes You A Better Person

I was raised in a bilingual household and spent my early days living in a foreign land as a third culture kid. Later, as an adult, I’ve noticed people commenting on how I tend to seem more interesting just because I can effortlessly switch between the two languages.

I recently discovered numerous scientific reasons why you seem to appear smarter, more creative, or attractive, when you can speak more than one language. Here are the top reasons why:

1. You Develop Better Memory

Researchers have found numerous positive impacts that being bilingual has on our brain. First of all, knowing two languages helps you process information about the surrounding environment more effectively, meaning you become a faster learner. Next, children who speak a second language typically have much better working memories, compared to monolingual peers. Adults, fret not! Though our working memories are developed early in life and it may be harder to master a new language once we’re grown-up, you can still reap the positive benefits.

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2. You Strengthen Your Brain

Being fluent in more than one language improves your brain’s functionality by challenging it to operate within different language systems, hence boosting your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well. From a scientific standpoint, switching between different languages triggers the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for problem-solving, multi-tasking, and focusing on important things while filtering out irrelevant information).

Bilingual people are also better at paying attention to their environment and analyzing it. This skill comes from being able to tell which language is spoken, so that one can quickly switch between different languages.

Knowing two languages also makes you more creative as you are more capable of understanding things like language syntax, metaphors, and figurative speech, which boost our creative skills and allows us to respond to obstacles in an out-of-the-box manner. In general, being bilingual allows you to tap into the unused creative parts of our brain unlike those who are monolingual.

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Another study, from the National Academy of Sciences, discovered additional cognitive gains from being bilingual since birth. Scientists tested 7-month-old infants using audio and changing visuals to analyze their cognitive performance in comparison to monolinguals. They were given an audio cue before being showed a visually stimulating reward (a puppet popping up on their screen). The action was repeated, so that the babies would anticipate the reward. The rewards were also displayed on the opposite sides of the screen after the audio was played. The experiment’s results proved that bilingual babies were faster to adapt to switching screens and showed faster reactions.

Another group of adults were tested to learn Spanish with lyrics in Spanish and English. Participants who already knew another language apart from English and Spanish, proved to pick up and remember the lines faster, compared to those who knew one of the languages, once again proving the positive impact of being bilingual in regards to our memory and cognitive performance in general.

3. You Stave Off Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease For a Few Years

According to Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, knowing two languages can reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s and postpone dementia.

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When conducting a test with bilingual seniors, researchers discovered they were better at tasks that required them to sort out colors and shapes, when compared to monolingual peers. They also monitored the processes happening inside their brains with a scanner. It turned out that the brains of a monolingual worked much harder to accomplish the task, while the bilingual’s brains were more efficient and could be compared to those of young adults. Having more reserve of brain power when you age can help you stay protected against the losses caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

4. You Become Better At Building Relationships With Others

Apart from the obvious fact that being capable of conversing in different languages makes it easier to create social ties with people around the globe and win attraction more easily, there’s also a more subtle level of impact behind that.

Susan Ervin-Tripp from the University of California noted in her report, “When we are in situations demanding a change in language, we may have a strong sense of a shift in values and feelings. Some bilinguals even report they have two personalities.” Indeed, a lot of bilinguals admit they feel like having two different personalities for operating one or another language. Mainly, this is due to the fact that different languages influence the way we think, from how we choose the vocabulary to describe the world around us to getting influenced by the different cultures you are operating in. Actually, that’s a great thing, as the ability to switch between different languages improves your ability to understand others, be more empathetic, and communicate better; therefore, drastically improving your relationships with others.

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Language is the core tool to help us better understand morals, beliefs, passions, and woes of other people.

5. You Have More Career Prospects

Having more than one language in your resume can drastically improve your chances of getting hired. In fact, a recent survey proved that bilinguals in the US also tend to earn at least $7.000 more annually compared to monolingual peers with the same kind of work experience. The reason is simple: there are fewer bilinguals to choose from, hence each one has a higher “value”. However, in Canada (a bilingual country), many people speak the two official languages of English and French. They tend to earn 7-8% more than monolingual counterparts. Foreign languages that will currently make you the most money include German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic.

6. You Seem To Appear More Attractive

There’s something special about your friend who’s capable of switching between languages, right? Well, a recent international survey has just confirmed that bilingual people tend to appear more attractive compared to monolinguals. Over 79% of survey respondents from around the globe agreed that a person speaking a second language instantly seems more appealing. However, there’s a catch. Only certain languages cast this magical effect. The languages on top of this list are no surprise: French, Italian, Spanish, and English. The least sexy language turned out to be Korean.

7. You Become a Better Traveler

One of the biggest differences between a traveler and a mere tourist is that the first one is capable of making genuine connections with the locals and getting to know the culture deeper, while the first one simply enjoys a quick and superficial familiarity. Speaking the local language, at least just a few words, will open more doors to you and will help you connect to the locals on a new level.

Obviously, navigating around a foreign land gets much easier. The locals will often make an additional effort for you if you manage to crunch just a few local phrases. At least, that’s what my travel experience has proven so far!

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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