More people around the world are learning new languages as the cognitive benefits of being bilingual emerges. Bilinguals are more perspective of their environs and focus better on important information. Speaking different languages means you get different metaphors, frames and a new culture.
10 benefits of knowing several languages
Bilingualism is brain exercise
The same way you exercise to work your body muscles, that’s’ how the brain muscles need exercise to improve agility and strength. A cognitive neuroscientist at University of Edinburgh, Dr. Thomas Bak says that the brain exercise improves brain health when language learners spend five hours a week learning. Consistency is key to getting proper workout for the brain.
Speeds up the learning process
The sensory and cognitive processing driven by the bilingual experience helps them process information in the environment faster, a clear sign of accelerated learning. The improved attention to details ensures they learn a third language better than a monolingual adult will learn a second.
Children who start early to learn to learn a new language show positive influence attention and conflict management, even in infants aged seven months.
During a recent study, bilinguals and monolinguals were asked to categorize basic objects by colour. After they grouped them, they switched tasks and this time had to categorize by shape. The bilingual group exceled better than the monolingual when the task was changed. They adapt more quickly and have an increased ability to multi-task.
Bilinguals have more control over their attention
People who speak two languages have to subconsciously block one language when listening or speaking the other. This skill enhances concentration and attention. In a study at Northwestern University, bilinguals and monolinguals were asked to listen to simple sounds repeatedly, when background noise was added to the sound, bilinguals were better at blocking out the interference to focus on the simple sound.
Bilingualism is a desirable employment skill
People who speak different languages have a competitive edge in the job market depending on how many international languages you speak. Companies with an international presence always look for potential employees who will fit naturally in a new country and communicate seamlessly with the locals. Journalism, tourism, hotels, Multinational corporations are a few examples of fields that hire bilingual employees.
Rational decision makers
A University of Chicago study revealed that when people speak a non-native language, they’re less likely to give in to loss aversion as foreign languages do not ignite the same emotional response when making difficult decisions.
Stimulates many areas of the brain
When you learn new languages, you memorize pronunciation, vocabulary and rules, all of which improve memory. Even those who don’t achieve high proficiency still witness improved mental alertness and increase in brain size. Any mental activity with many layers impacts the brain.
Reduces occurrence of dementia in old age
Bilingual speakers, who experience dementia, succumb four years later than monolingual speakers do. While the first sign appears at 71 years it happens at 75 in bilinguals. Professor Bak’s study shows the improvement occurs as a result of improved attention mechanism and use of memory.
Age is not an excuse. There are many benefits to learning a second language and the techniques for learning differs among individuals. Those who easily pick up patterns and sequences learn better through immersion. Dedicate time, be persistent and empower your brain to become smarter.