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7 Reasons You Should Thank The Second Language You Learned

7 Reasons You Should Thank The Second Language You Learned

Whether you had a bilingual upbringing or learned a second language later in life, you are incredibly fortunate. In fact, the benefits of being bilingual may be far greater than you ever imagined.

From the wealth of research surrounding bilingualism, scientists have highlighted distinct advantages in academic performance, mental health, and even future success. This phenomenon has since become known as the bilingual advantage.

The process of learning, knowing and using a second language has a profound effect on the brain. Specifically, they experience greater development in these key areas that organize and process speech:

  • Auditory Cortex – receives auditory stimuli and sends it to the Wernicke’s area
  • Wernicke’s Area – processes language sounds
  • Motor Cortex – controls motion of lips and mouth for forming speech
  • Broca’s Area – organizes language for active speech

When it comes to our everyday lives, many of these astounding benefits may surprise you!

7 Key Benefits of Being Bilingual

1. Greater Cognitive Skills

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    Bilingualism has been seen to enhance essential brain functions during focusing and demanding mental tasks. Then when it comes to creativity and problem-solving, studies have shown a distinct advantage for children who speak two languages.

    It’s believed that their brains can process and sort through information more efficiently than monolingual individuals. Since they must subconsciously choose words from a certain language, they gain more practice at selecting vital information over trivial details. As a result, bilinguals have the upper hand when it comes to dismissing distractions and multitasking.

    Almost unbelievably, there is evidence that suggests bilinguals make more rational decisions. The fact of the matter is, our natural human emotional bias is greatly diminished when using a second language. As we gain emotional distance and shift our focus on to information, we find ourselves performing more rational responses.

    2. Reduced Cognitive Damage Through Aging

    Even as we reach maturity, the benefits of being bilingual continue to serve us. As we age our cognitive flexibility begins to wane. We become slower and less able to adapt to unexpected and unfamiliar situations. Yet speakers of second languages have shown reduced and delayed damage as they age.

    Dementia is another worry, however, bilingualism has been seen to support cognition in older adults and delay the effects.

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    Studies have noted that speaking a second language has a profound effect on Alzheimer’s suffers. Many of the symptoms, such as confusion and memory loss, can be delayed by up to 5 years!

    3. Ease of Learning Another Foreign Language

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      If a child learns a second language, they can often pick up another with much less difficulty than others. Bilinguals have an advantage when it comes to the following linguistic skills:

      • Listening skills
      • Categorization of words
      • Processing information
      • Finding rhymes and word association
      • Communication skills
      • Increasing vocabulary
      • Finding solutions

      4. More Job Opportunities

      Modern businesses have diversified and grown internationally. Innovations in telecommunications and internet technology have opened up countless opportunities for business in foreign markets. Now, multicultural individuals are being increasingly seen as great assets to help business connect with these markets.

      We have huge multi-national companies who open offices internationality, manufacture on foreign lands and sell products in global markets. Employees who can speak more than one of these languages are in great demand, plus it makes you stand out from the rest.

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      5. Increased Money Earning Potential

      While your earning potential will vary greatly depending on your language and field, being bilingual is always advantageous. In fact, data from Salary.com showed that certain jobs were willing to pay a 5-20% higher hourly wage for bilingual candidates.

      Furthermore, Albert Saiz revealed that on average, bilingual graduates go on to earn 2% more than single language speakers. While this does not sound like much, it could certainly amount to a lot over a lifetime!

      6. Stronger Command of Your Primary Language

      This may come as a surprise to you, but speaking a second language can often reinforce the grasp of your primary language. To learning you must have focused on the mechanics of the language, such as sentence structure, grammar, and conjugations. As you became more aware of how a language is structured and utilized, you’ll develop increased communication skills.

      It’s also likely your listening skills will be sharpened as you become more accustomed to subtle tones and their meanings.

      Learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar, conjugations, and sentence structure. This makes you more aware of language, and the ways it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective communicator and a sharper editor and writer. Language speakers also develop a better ear for listening, since they become skilled at distinguishing the meanings from discrete sounds.

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      7. Greater Perception of the World

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        One of the best benefits of being bilingual is the understanding of yourself and others. Even without traveling, your perception of the world around you can be transformed. Believe it or not, bilingual can even perceive greater variations of color than monolinguals.

        It’s even common for bilinguals to adopt different characteristics as they speak different languages. Many have even admitted to feeling different about themselves and acting differently according to these languages.

        One study found that changing of self-perception, or “Frame-shifting,” is far more prevalent in second language speakers. Those fluent in two languages were seen to perceive themselves differently as they spoke to each one. Whats more, even adverts in different languages are perceived differently.

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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