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
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.
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
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.
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.
7. Greater Perception of the World
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.