We all know that being bilingual (or even multilingual) increases your ability to communicate with more people across the world, which is a pretty cool perk to learning another language. But did you know that being bilingual helps you in far more ways than just communication? Here are 10 things that you can do better when you’re bilingual:
Noisy Classroom? No Problem!
New studies carried out by Anglia Ruskin University have shown that bilingual children are better at tuning out noise. This means that bilingual students are better able to learn and concentrate in a noisy classroom that their monolingual classmates. This ability to concentrate despite the distractions going on around them leads to an overall better school performance. A great reason to start learning a new language while you’re young? We think so.
Improved Problem Solving
According to the New York Times, studies have shown that bilinguals are able to solve certain mental puzzles quicker than their monolingual counterparts. This is because they are used to directing their attention between conflicting thought processes (like two different languages) and are better able to channel this same focus to other tasks.
Closer Attention to Surroundings
Not only are bilinguals better at ignoring distractions, they are also better at paying attention to the environment around them. As they switch between languages, making a judgement on what is being said to them in a certain language and how to respond, sharpens their ability to keep track of their environment and its changes. Observation and Monitoring tasks? Advantage bilinguals!
Superior Listening Skills
Learning other languages also helps with listening skills. Bilinguals are much more adept at recognising other languages – even ones that they don’t actually speak! Not only does this help you when there are foreign accents around you, but it also helps the listening skills in your primary language. You’ll be better at picking up subtle nuances in other people’s speech, thus improving your overall communication.
Learning a second language is beneficial for overall cognitive development, including memory. Since bilinguals have to store two sets of vocabulary in their mind and are used to accessing the correct one, they get great practice at storing and using information. Plus, good memory helps with studying, another reason bilingual students do better in school than monolinguals.
Big Crowds, Better Focus
Trying to find your way in a crowded train station? Studying in a loud coffee shop? No worries if you’re bilingual. In fact, it might actually be easier in the chaos for those who are used to it – zoning out external distractions becomes almost second nature.
A Different Point of View
The great thing about changing between languages is that you’re better able to change your perspective and to think in different ways. An interesting study looked at how people acted differently when they were asked to make decisions with varying degrees of risk and uncertainty. Participants were asked in their first and second language, and showed different behavioural patterns as they switched languages. The idea is that because a different language forces you to think differently, it also influences your behaviour, allowing you to escape a singular paradigm of thought
Since bilinguals are used to switching quickly between languages while blocking out distracting influences, this naturally helps in their ability to multitask. And frankly, what better skill could you have in the 21st century, when you’re bombarded with new information and new tasks from all sides? Being able to multitask is an incredibly valuable asset in this busy world. A great added perk of being bilingual!
An amazing thing about being bilingual is that the benefits extend throughout your whole life. Research has shown that bilinguals have a greater resistance than monolinguals to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The greater your degree of bilingualism, the later in life these diseases are likely to affect you, if you’re susceptible. Think of learning a second language as a long term investment in your mental health.
More Languages? More Money!
If the cognitive benefits aren’t enough for you, here’s a financial incentive: research shows that people who speak more languages earn more money than people who can speak only one. This makes sense when you consider that we live in a globalised world; contact with foreign countries and other languages is inevitable. Being able to speak another language gives you a competitive advantage in the workplace. You’re more likely to get hired and companies have more incentive to pay you more money. And hey, money talks…