The benefits of bilingualism

In today’s society, especially in the United States, speaking a second language becomes quite useful. When you are communicating with people around you, knowing another language gives you a big advantage. Not only does it expand your social circle, but according to several past studies, it also enhances brain function.

Image from The Official Elevate Blog
by Gray Matter

Bilingualism is a term describing a phenomenon of being able to speak more than one language. It can be acquired through gradually learning the second language. Some kids speak their native language at home and speak English at school. Others have parents that speak different languages, therefore getting enough exposure through each parent. According to a national study by National Center of Biotechnology, 21% of school-age children (between ages 5-17) speak a language other than English at home. The benefits of bilingualism have been studied a lot in past years.

The early exposure to a different language is highly beneficial for a child. It is believed that the “code switching” that happens in bilingual brains makes the individual better in problem-solving tasks.  But that doesn’t mean raising a bilingual child is an easy task. A professor and psychologist at Florida Atlantic University, Erika Hoff said: “For everybody trying to raise a bilingual child, whatever your background and reason, it’s very important to realize that acquiring a language requires massive exposure to that language.”

Bilingual brains are constantly multi-tasking, switching from one language to another.

Bilingual children react to things happening around them faster than that of an average person. According to research by Viorica Marian and Anthony Shook on “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual”, a bilingual person has double ways of communication. Bilingual brains contain two vocabulary sets, neither of which are used at each other’s expense. Here is an example from their experiment: A Russian-English bilingual person asked to “pick up a marker” from a set of objects would look more at a stamp than someone who doesn’t know Russian, because the Russian word for “stamp,” “marka,” sounds like the English word he or she heard, “marker.”

Being bilingual means having another perspective. Knowing another language gives you an opportunity to understand other cultures and their people. Such individuals are more open to communicating with people around them. Bilingualism is a unique skill that will definitely benefit a person if one puts effort into acquiring it.

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