Bilingual is better (and here’s why) ‹ GO Blog | EF GO Blog (2023)

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Language fuels our brains, frames our thoughts and makes complex communication possible.The words, expressions and quirks unique to our language largely define how we see and understand the world. If you’re monolingual, that world has clearer limits. But in an age of borderless communications and global travel, it seems almost archaic to be limited to one language only – even if you’re lucky enough to speak a global language like English or Spanish as your mother tongue.

But is being bilingual – speaking two languages – or even multilingual all it’s cut out to be? Does it really open up the world to us when Google Translate can do so in one easy click? Can it make economies more successful, help us earn higher salaries, maybe even lead to a happier, more connected life? And is it, as popular culture likes to claim, the secret to bringing up super smart children?

(Video) Dana Dragomir: Best Practices in Bilingual Social Media Management and Content Strategy

The myth of the bilingual baby

The brain is a remarkably malleable organ. From birth to old age, it develops, adapts, learns and re-learns, even after being injured. Language is an essential component of how the brain functions throughout life, but just like the brain itself, science still doesn’t have a full picture ofhow language works its magic on those neural pathways.

Although the old belief that babies whoare exposed to more than one language will end up confused, less intelligent or even schizophrenichas been debunked(yes, people really used to believe this), in recent years the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction: Books and articles tout bilingualism as a magic wand that will transform every child into a pint-sized, multitasking genius.

Dozens of studies, often quoted in the press, have claimed that, among other things, learning two languages in early childhood improves a whole host of cognitive abilities, making the brain more adept at switching between tasks, focusing in a busy environment, and remembering things. Learning and using two languages, these studies imply, clearly make children’s brains better.

But when a young researcher named Angela de Bruin, herself a bilingual, looked at hundreds of these studies in more detail, she discovered that these studies often significantly overstated the advantages, and presented inconclusive evidence as conclusive. The narrative that “bilingual is better” was becoming well established in popular culture, but de Bruin’s critical take on the research behind it showed that the benefits weren’t as clear-cut or universal as had been reported.

(Video) The benefits of a bilingual brain - Mia Nacamulli

This is not to say that there are no benefits, and they may even turn out to be significant once the science catches up. And beyond purely cognitive skills, the social gains may be equally important. A recent study, for example, concluded that bilingual children, even kids merely exposed to a second language, were better at interpreting another person’s intentions by being able to see things from their perspective. This, the researchers inferred, made them more empathetic and better at understanding what the speaker meant.

An ability to empathize in this way provides a social advantage, but there is one more significant advantage to learning and speaking more than one language: It helps the brain stay healthy throughout life.

The truth about the bilingual brain

The brain, like any muscle, likes to exercise, and as it turns out, being fluent in two or more languagesis one of the best ways to keep it fit and keep degenerative disorders like dementia at bay. In fact, bilingual peopleshow noticeable symptoms of Alzheimer’snearly five year laterthan people who are monolingual and only speak one language.That’s significantly longer thanwhat the best modern medicines can offer.Amazingly enough, this advantage isnoticeable even in people who are illiterate.

True bilingualism also offers a more specific and distinct benefit to those whoregularly speak two or more languages at native level, and crucially, switch between them on a regular basis: The brains of Puerto Rican New Yorkers who used bothSpanish and English in their daily lives were indeed more nimble and agile than those of monolinguals. A study of Singaporeans who grew up with and used their native Asian tongue and English regularly came to a similar conclusion. Bilinguals who didn’t often switch between the two languages or only used one languages in a limited setting like home, showedfar fewer benefits.

(Video) BERRY FALL MAKEUP LOOK | I've finally graduated!!

Thecultural case is also worth examining, as is answering this important question: Does speaking more than one language help us feel more connected to the world, or as Charlemagneonce famouslyput it, “gain a second soul”?

The bicultural bonus

Languageshelp us make sense of the world and can even influence the way we see and describe it, as a recent study examining German and English speakers shows. There’s also no doubt that a Finnish and Arabic speaker, for example, would describe the world differently. After all, Arabic hardly needs 40 words or expressions related to snowlike Finnish does,and there’s likely to be a noticeable difference in howa Finndescribes, perhaps even experiences, a winter wonderland as a result. Indeed, learning another language not only helps us see the world from a different perspective, butit can even impact the way we think about it. As Dr. Panos Athanasopoulos, an expert in linguistics and bilingualism, puts it:“There’s an inextricable link between language, culture and cognition”.

Many studies support this, showing that people who speak different languages score higher in tests that measure open-mindedness and cultural sensitivity and have an easier time seeing things from a different (cultural) perspective. Bilingualism, therefore, seems to make people bicultural (or multicultural if you speak more than two languages), a significant advantage in today’s borderless world and a vital skill when traveling and getting to know new cultures and people.

Thebusiness case for bilingualism

The benefits of bilingualism don’t end there, however. Studies in Switzerland, Britain, Canada and India, as well as our very own EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), highlight the financial rewards associated with bilingualism or multilingualism at all levels.

(Video) How to became a Bilingual Elementary Teacher/ Texas Teacher

A Swiss study, for example, noted that multilingualism is estimated to contribute 10 percent of Switzerland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), proving that the language skills of workers open up more markets to Swiss businesses, greatly benefiting the economy as a whole. In Britain, on the other hand, the cost of the country’s stubborn attachment to the English language and unwillingness to significantly invest in learning other languages, has beenestimated to be as high as £48bn a year, or a staggering 3.5 percent of GDP.

For businesses, the language skills of their workers – be it a language spoken in a new market they’re expanding to, or English, the global lingua franca – are just as important. In an Economist Intelligence Unit study, quoted in the 2014 EF EPI, nearly 90 percent of managers saidthat bettercross-border communication would improve the bottom line, while another study noted that 79 percent of companies that had invested in the English skills of their workers, had seen an increase in sales.

At the individual level, the benefits of bilingualism are a little harder to quantify, mainly because they depend on industry, location and level of employment. A 2010 study in Canada, for example, showed that bilingual workers earned between 3-7 percent more than their monolingual peers. Speaking both of the country’s official languages – English and French – helped people earn more, even if they weren’t required to speak that second language on the job. In the US, studies have shown that speaking a foreign language can increase your salary by (at least) 1,5-3.8 percent, with German skills having the highest value due to their relative scarcity and Germany’s importance to global trade. In India, this premium was even more notable, with those who spoke English earning, on average, 34 percent more per hour.

Bilingual or multilingual managers are also increasingly valuedand sought after: Recruiters and industry leaders consider them to be better equipped to manage both global business relationships and teams.

(Video) increase your salary by 200%? does being bilingual actually help you get a lucrative career :o

Bilingual is better. Period.

There are clear and very tangible benefits to being bilingual. Although there is limited proof that growing up bilingual gives children a significant cognitive edge, lifelong learning and using a second language regularly does indeed seem to make our brains more nimble and resilient. The economic benefits, moreover, can be substantial. Speaking more languages also makes us more open-minded and helps us feel more connected to other cultures and to the world. Who knows – bilingualism might even foster peace and understanding at a global level. If that’s not a good reason to learn another language, I don’t know what is.

FAQs

Why is being bilingual better? ›

Bilingualism strengthens cognitive abilities - bilingual people tend to be more creative and flexible. They can be more open-minded, and they also find it easier to focus on a variety of tasks simultaneously.

How does bilingual help in life? ›

There is growing evidence to suggest that bilingualism can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease for example. Other benefits of being bilingual include things such as a faster stroke recovery, lower stress levels, and delay many effects of old to name a few.

Why it is important to be a bilingual student? ›

Improved cultural and social skills

Bilingual education helps students effectively connect with people of different cultures and backgrounds, increasing their ability to empathize with others and promoting emotional intelligence.

What are the 3 types of bilingualism? ›

The classification informs effective bilingual education design for children, as well as adult language training and assessment.
  • Compound Bilinguals. ...
  • Coordinate Bilinguals. ...
  • Subordinate Bilinguals. ...
  • Bilingual and Proud.

Is Being bilingual a skill? ›

Yes, being bilingual is a skill just like any other language skill and you can definitely add it to your resume. In fact, it can be something that makes your resume take off. So add information on your bilingual skills throughout your resume.

What does being bilingual mean to you? ›

What does it mean to say somebody is bilingual? A bilingual person is someone who speaks two languages. A person who speaks more than two languages is called 'multilingual' (although the term 'bilingualism' can be used for both situations).

Who benefits from bilingual education? ›

Those who learn a second or third language from a young age are able to develop communication skills and a higher degree of literacy. Children who grow up in bilingual environments develop a keen awareness of how language works and have a stronger foundation for learning additional languages in the future.

Is bilingualism good or bad? ›

Two languages, two sets of opinion about bilingualism. On the one side is the research that consistently shows that bilingualism is good for you. It leads to an enriched set of experiences, a new way of seeing the world, and more prosaically but no less importantly, is associated with reduced rates of dementia.

How bilingualism helps your brain? ›

These findings suggest that the bilingual experience may help improve selective attention by enhancing the auditory brainstem response. “Bilingualism serves as enrichment for the brain and has real consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory,” Kraus says.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being bilingual? ›

The pros and cons of being bilingual
  • Pro: It's a conversation starter.
  • Con: You will always be better at one than the other.
  • Pro: It's great for the CV.
  • Con: Sometimes struggling to speak one language in a professional setting.
  • Pro: It's easier to learn other languages and it keeps our brains sharp.
6 Apr 2016

How can bilingualism positively affect a country? ›

Cultural diversity/multiculturalism: Bilingualism fosters an openness to immigrants, minority empowerment, minority rights, and the expression of unique cultural products (e.g. music, literature, film, television).

How important is bilingual? ›

Research has found that babies raised in bilingual households show better self-control,8 a key indicator of school success. Bilingual and biliterate individuals have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures.

How does being bilingual help you socially? ›

It gives you access to two cultures and makes you more tolerant and open to others. By being able to communicate in two languages, you are free to learn about diverse cultures, traditions and social behaviors as well as be a part of them.

What is the main concept of bilingualism? ›

Bilingualism (multilingualism) refers to the coexistence of more than one language system within an individual, as contrasted to monolingualism.

What are the characteristics of bilingualism? ›

Common characteristics of bilingual people are:
  • May be of two cultures or one culture that uses two languages.
  • May or may not speak both languages equally well.
  • Can't be expected to translate quickly.
  • May mix both languages when talking to each other.
3 Oct 2021

How common is bilingualism? ›

There are approximately 3.3 billion bilingual people worldwide, accounting for 43% of the population. 36% of UK adults are bilingual. That's over 24 million people. Spanish is the most popular second language to learn in the US.

What are the disadvantages of bilingualism? ›

On the other hand, some of the disadvantages of bilingualism are an apparent delay in language acquisition; interference between the two phonological, lexical, and grammatical systems; and a possible decrease in vocabulary in both languages.

What is impact of bilingualism? ›

Many studies came to the conclusion that bilinguals are more sensitive to semantic relations between words, are better able to treat sentence structure analytically, are better at rule-discovery tasks, have greater social sensitivity, and so on.

What skills do bilinguals have? ›

Bilingual people enjoy advantages: they have enriched cognitive control, it's likely that they have improved metalinguistic awareness, as well as better memory, visual-spatial skills and even creativity. There are also social benefits from being bilingual.

How does being bilingual affect a person's identity? ›

Therefore, speaking a different language establishes certain identities within each interaction. Although being Bilingual is beneficial in current society, it also holds another side of the coin. Many bilingual people tend to experience a wave of confusion, a feeling of not belonging in one or either culture.

Can you be truly bilingual? ›

True bilingualism is a relatively rare and a beautiful thing, and by “true,” I mean speaking two languages with the proficiency of a native — something most of us will only dream of as we struggle with learning languages in school and beyond.

How do I know if I am bilingual? ›

Being bilingual means that you have some degree of proficiency in two languages. This includes but is not limited to daily conversations, expressing emotions, engaging in debates, and being able to use and understand core concepts. Becoming bilingual is the first step to becoming multilingual.

How do I become truly bilingual? ›

5 Ways to Become Bilingual
  1. Commit to read. Set aside a reasonable amount of time (e.g. 15-30 minutes) each day to read in the language you're trying to learn. ...
  2. Practice one person one language (OPOL), to the extent possible. ...
  3. Play that music. ...
  4. Immerse yourself in the language's environment. ...
  5. Keep up the streak!
14 Feb 2019

What are the aims of bilingual education? ›

The goal of bilingual education programs shall be to enable English language learners to become competent in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the English language through the development of literacy and academic skills in the primary language and English.

How does bilingualism affect education? ›

Bilingual education helps limited English proficient students develop language skills in their native (non-English) language. Skills in students' native language may facilitate their development of skills in English. Bilingual education supports cultural inclusion and diversity.

Do bilingual people learn languages faster? ›

"We also find that bilinguals appear to learn the new language more quickly than monolinguals," says lead author Sarah Grey, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of modern languages and literatures at Fordham University.

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter answers? ›

The evidence from such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain's executive function—a command system that directs the processes that we use for planning, solving problems and doing other mentally demanding tasks.

What are the benefits of speaking another language? ›

Let's have a look at some of the benefits of learning a second language.
  • It improves your memory. The more you use your brain to learn new skills, the more your brain's functions work. ...
  • Enhances your ability to multitask. ...
  • Improves your performance in other academic areas.
12 May 2020

Do bilingual people think differently? ›

The new research by Panos Athanasopoulos, Professor of Linguistics and English language at Lancaster University, has found that bilinguals think and behave like two different people, depending on the language context they are operating in.

Do bilinguals have better memory? ›

In the study, bilingual children outperformed monolinguals and maintained their outperformance in all tasks with heavier memory load tasks. The result suggested that bilingual children have more efficient information management skills than monolingual children.

What are the advantages of bilingualism in childhood? ›

Being multilingual or bilingual often helps children learn at school because it helps them with problem-solving, multitasking, creativity and flexible thinking. These children can also have good focus. How does multilingualism and bilingualism affect speech development? All children develop speech at different rates.

What are the causes of bilingualism? ›

There are several reasons people become bilingual:
  • Choice. Of course, sometimes becoming bilingual is purely motivated by an interest in languages. ...
  • Geography. The choice is a relatively uncommon reason for becoming bilingual, however. ...
  • Migration. ...
  • Religious or Professional Reasons.

What are the challenges of bilingualism? ›

Some of these challenges are language fluency delay, mixing languages, dominance of one another over the other, reading and writing, being passively bilingual, prejudice, cultural and religious biases amongst others.

What are the characteristics of bilingual education? ›

Characteristics of Good Bilingual Education Programs
  • High expectations for students and clear programmatic goals.
  • A curriculum that is comparable to the material covered in the English-only classroom.
  • Instruction through the native language for subject matter.
  • An English-language development component.

How does being bilingual help with culture? ›

Because language is a vehicle to understand culture, speaking a second language and experiencing its culture allow students to better understand and appreciate other cultures. Accordingly, bilinguals are typically more welcoming of diversity, whether cultural or linguistic, than their monolingual counterparts.

How does bilingualism affect intelligence? ›

Early research on bilingualism, conducted before the 1960s, however, linked bilingualism with lower IQ scores, cognitive deficiencies and even mental retardation. These studies reported that monolingual children were up to three years ahead of bilingual children in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence.

Why is bilingualism important for the economy? ›

Bilingualism creates greater economic activity, job security, and job opportunities. Being able to trade goods and services in two languages adds 3.3 billion dollars each year to the economies of Canada's two most bilingual provinces, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Do bilinguals have better social skills? ›

Furthermore, bilinguals also scored higher on the social interaction scale. Thus, bilinguals not only reported having higher social flexibility but also having social interactions more frequently. In addition, the effect on frequency of social interactions was mediated by social flexibility.

Do bilinguals have better communication skills? ›

Researcher Katherine Kinzler recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about a study she conducted with other researchers and a follow-up study, both of which underlined the social advantages of bilingualism and that communication skills were better with bilingual / multilingual kids.

Why are bilinguals smarter? ›

These skills make up the brain's executive control system, which looks after high-level thought, multi-tasking, and sustained attention. Because bilingual people are used to switching between their two languages, they are also better at switching between tasks, even if these tasks are nothing to do with language.

What is the true essence of bilingualism? ›

Hence the following definition that we propose: “True Bilingualism: a true bilingual is someone who is taken to be one of themselves by the members of two different linguistic communities, at roughly the same social and cultural level”. The test of true bilingualism is purely empirical.

What are the two types of bilingualism? ›

Early and late / Simultaneous and successive bilingualism

The age at which one acquires a second language plays an important role – we thus distinguish between early and late bilingualism.

What is bilingual and example? ›

bilingualism, Ability to speak two languages. It may be acquired early by children in regions where most adults speak two languages (e.g., French and dialectal German in Alsace).

What are two benefits of bilingualism in children? ›

Being multilingual or bilingual often helps children learn at school because it helps them with problem-solving, multitasking, creativity and flexible thinking. These children can also have good focus.

What are the benefits of bilingualism for children? ›

Benefits of Being Bilingual from a Young Age
  • Better concentration. When a bilingual child tries to speak, both languages compete to be spoken. ...
  • Arithmetic and problem-solving. ...
  • Creativity and ability to hypothesize. ...
  • Better language and vocabulary. ...
  • Brain exercise. ...
  • Better communication. ...
  • Better memory. ...
  • Faster response.
12 Jul 2021

What are the advantages and disadvantages of bilingual? ›

The pros and cons of being bilingual
  • Pro: It's a conversation starter.
  • Con: You will always be better at one than the other.
  • Pro: It's great for the CV.
  • Con: Sometimes struggling to speak one language in a professional setting.
  • Pro: It's easier to learn other languages and it keeps our brains sharp.
6 Apr 2016

How does bilingualism help the brain? ›

These findings suggest that the bilingual experience may help improve selective attention by enhancing the auditory brainstem response. “Bilingualism serves as enrichment for the brain and has real consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory,” Kraus says.

What are 3 benefits to bilingualism? ›

Main Benefits of Bilingualism
  • Better Educational Performance. Bilingual students have been found to possess a heightened intelligence. ...
  • Greater Job Opportunities. ...
  • Enhances Communication Skills. ...
  • Increased Creativity. ...
  • Heightened Cognitive Ability. ...
  • Improved Health.
17 Oct 2018

What makes someone bilingual? ›

People may become bilingual either by acquiring two languages at the same time in childhood or by learning a second language sometime after acquiring their first language. Many bilingual people grow up speaking two languages.

How does being bilingual help you socially? ›

It gives you access to two cultures and makes you more tolerant and open to others. By being able to communicate in two languages, you are free to learn about diverse cultures, traditions and social behaviors as well as be a part of them.

Who benefits from bilingual education? ›

Those who learn a second or third language from a young age are able to develop communication skills and a higher degree of literacy. Children who grow up in bilingual environments develop a keen awareness of how language works and have a stronger foundation for learning additional languages in the future.

What is the meaning bilingualism? ›

Put simply, bilingualism is the ability to use two languages.

How does bilingualism affect learning? ›

Bilingual children show some advantages in socio-cognitive development when compared to monolinguals, particularly in understanding the beliefs of others, picking out the important variables to solve a problem, and entertaining two possible interpretations of the same stimulus at once.

Is bilingualism good or bad? ›

Two languages, two sets of opinion about bilingualism. On the one side is the research that consistently shows that bilingualism is good for you. It leads to an enriched set of experiences, a new way of seeing the world, and more prosaically but no less importantly, is associated with reduced rates of dementia.

What is bilingualism and examples? ›

Bilingualism means to have the ability to communicate in two languages. For example, a person could communicate in French and Spanish or English and American Sign Language. A person could become bilingual because they are raised in a dual-language household or because they learn a second language later in life.

What are the challenges of bilingualism? ›

Some of these challenges are language fluency delay, mixing languages, dominance of one another over the other, reading and writing, being passively bilingual, prejudice, cultural and religious biases amongst others.

Do bilingual people think differently? ›

The new research by Panos Athanasopoulos, Professor of Linguistics and English language at Lancaster University, has found that bilinguals think and behave like two different people, depending on the language context they are operating in.

How common is bilingualism? ›

There are approximately 3.3 billion bilingual people worldwide, accounting for 43% of the population. 36% of UK adults are bilingual. That's over 24 million people. Spanish is the most popular second language to learn in the US.

How does a bilingual think? ›

Bilingual will often think with their native language. However, they nearly always will think in the language they are speaking in, regardless of which one it is. Thus if surrounded by those who speak their second language then they will think in that language the most.

Videos

1. These Foundation Blocks will SAVE your Christian Faith || Episode 3 Modern Missionary Podcast
(The Modern Missionary)
2. JAIIB LRAB November Exam 2022 | Most Important 500+ LRAB MCQs | Class - 3 | By Monika Ma'am
(Oliveboard)
3. How Alejandra Graf Runs Her Bilingual Blog in English and Spanish | The Food Blogger Pro Podcast
(Food Blogger Pro)
4. How to set up a bilingual or multilingual blog on Google Blogger?
(Stoyan Cheresharov)
5. How to Create a Multilingual Squarespace Website (Easy and SEO friendly for 7.1 and 7.0)
(Anna Clark)
6. Blog 3 interview with Bilingual Teacher
(Taylor Simpson)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kareem Mueller DO

Last Updated: 01/08/2023

Views: 5409

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kareem Mueller DO

Birthday: 1997-01-04

Address: Apt. 156 12935 Runolfsdottir Mission, Greenfort, MN 74384-6749

Phone: +16704982844747

Job: Corporate Administration Planner

Hobby: Mountain biking, Jewelry making, Stone skipping, Lacemaking, Knife making, Scrapbooking, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Kareem Mueller DO, I am a vivacious, super, thoughtful, excited, handsome, beautiful, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.