Opinion

Bilingual Brain Power and Benefits

The Macro and Micro Effects of Speaking Another Language

By: Veronica Pistek

From Spanish to Mandarin, speaking multiple languages has its health benefits. (Credit: dailyuw.com)

Any time is the best time to learn another language.
Being bilingual has recently been shown to be incredibly beneficial, and learning more than one language can open the door for a stronger brain, great career opportunities, social and cultural diversification, and an overall healthier lifestyle.

It is discussed widely throughout the psychological world that a bilingual brain works differently from a monolingual brain. Such research has yielded that bilingualism helps to keep us mentally fit.

For instance, you might spend an entire Sunday watching Netflix and not be active. Then, on Monday, take a trip to the gym, learn at school, and conquer assignments. Your brain is just like a muscle —the more it exercises, the stronger it becomes.

Flipping language on and off like a switch in the brain works out the core control system, directing attention to processes such as planning, problem solving, and mentally intense tasks.

Believe it or not, learning a second language from youth prepares the mind for the multitasking that comes with adulthood.

Even better, bilingualism enhances focus, improves listening skills, and overall increases cognitive and emotional distance which enables you to make more rational decisions.

Knowing a second language enhances important qualities that provide more value to employers. Many careers in today’s world search for employees that embody diversity.

Being bilingual creates that edge when applying to jobs such as journalism, education, international services, the military, and even healthcare careers.

If you are a “paper chaser”, it has been noted that jobs with pay differentials based on bilingualism can pay up to 5-20% more per-hour.

If you strive for that extra money, then learning that language can benefit your financial gain greatly over the course of your career.

Speaking a second language paves the road for interaction with more diverse people and cultures. This aspect can lead to more opportunities to make friends, open your mind to cultures, and explore different types of art, hobbies, and locations.

Ever dream of eating the best cuisine in Paris and living life like the locals? If you have the chance to travel to Paris and happen to know French, you will recognize how much easier and memorable your experience will become. You can navigate the streets easier, engage in conversations, and indulge in the culture without any limitations.

Even if travelling is not your forte, becoming bilingual will expand your mind and open up new perspectives.

Research has shown that speaking another language can actually help you focus on seeing the world differently.

Many bilingual folk report that they feel like a different person when speaking another language.

Speaking a different tongue brings out various characteristics within a person, and leads to a new perception of the world through a different lens.

The benefits of being bilingual can also be sustainable for a lifetime.

The cognitive flexibility combined with enhanced adaptation skills can help delay dementia in older adults. Also, bilingualism is said to make Alzheimer’s symptoms appear much later on in one suffering from the disease.

Symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty of focus, and increased confusion are all aspects of the mental deterioration that comes with having Alzheimer’s.

If bilingualism really can delay these symptoms by much as five years, then one should truly consider making bilingualism a universal phenomenon.

Not only does bilingualism benefit an individual, it can impact an entire community. By exposing a child to a new culture and language, they will be more likely to destroy any ideas of discrimination.

By removing the international language barrier, the children who come from English-speaking homes can lend their language to those who live in Spanish-speaking homes, and vice versa. This could foster a better understanding of other cultures.

Though the Critical Age Hypothesis of Language Acquisition states that it is easier to develop a new language during the prime of our youth, it is never too late to fulfill your goals.

The sooner you begin to learn and the more frequently you practice, the greater the benefits of knowing another language will be.

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