Yes, you can usually get along just fine in life even if the only language you know is English. However, scientists are now confirming that bilingualism has a wide range of benefits – and that these benefits are not just related to communication skills.
Quality Job Prospects
Knowing an in-demand second language like French, German, Spanish, or Mandarin will give you a wide range of better job prospects to choose from. If you’re not from an English-speaking country and English is not your native language, it’s a good idea to choose that language first, as it’s widely used in many global corporations.
You can work at a multinational company and relocate at a moment’s notice to idyllic, exotic urban cities in Japan and Singapore or the West Coast in the US (depending where you’re coming from).
Bilingual employees are often preferred over workers with more technical skills, simply because they already have an advantage: they can instantly communicate and focus on implementing marketing strategies overseas without any linguistic barriers. In general, it’s quicker and easier to learn new technical skills that it is to learn a new language.
A less cited benefit of being bilingual is the strong, fit memory you get to enjoy. Since learning a new language mainly consists of memorizing spelling, vocabulary and syntax rules, it helps people improve their memory capacity and flexibility. A university of Brunswick, Canada study showed that bilingual individuals are better at remembering shopping lists and directions than monolingual people.
Shield Against Alzheimer’s and Dementia
A study on the importance of bilingualism confirms that people speaking regularly in a language other than their native language tend to experience the first cognitive decline symptoms associated with dementia about 4-5 years later than people who are monolingual. The mean age for dementia’s first signs for monolingual people is 71.4 while for bilingual individuals the average onset is at 75.5 years.
Improved Brain Functionality
When we learn a second language our brain is forced to process, adapt, and use different communication systems. This brain flexibility and adaptability are competencies you can apply in several problem-solving contexts even if they have nothing to do with language use.
Multitasking and Brain Agility
If you’ve ever talked with a bilingual person or are one yourself, you know that the switch between languages — sometimes within the same sentence – is ongoing. Using languages of different structures, vocabulary, and pronunciation rules shows that a person is skillful in both and agile enough to seamlessly juggle them at a moment’s notice.
Knowing a second language will come in handy when you travel abroad, and it does make you look more skilled and professional when listed in your resume, but the mental benefits of being bilingual have long-term advantages that go above and beyond these daily uses.
From a stronger brain and better thinking agility, to improving your conversational adeptness in your native tongue, it is evident that being a polyglot should be the norm.
Cross-posted on the Wordela blog.
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