Tap to Read ➤

Benefits of Being Bilingual

Reshma Jirage
The ability to converse in two languages is known as bilingualism. People who are adept at speaking two languages enjoy certain advantages over their monolingual counterparts.
In a modern world like ours, it has become commonplace for people to know more than one language. It isn't uncommon to come across bilinguals who, not only have a command over their first or native language but are also fluent in a second, vernacular or foreign language as well.
According to common underlying proficiency (CUP) model of language processing, even though the database of different languages is interconnected in our minds, it is stored in separate compartments and thus does not interfere or encroach upon the other.
Thereby, making it possible for bilinguals to switch between two languages with equal ease and fluency. Research has revealed that the practice of bilingualism is beneficial in the following ways.

Cognitive Benefits

➜ A bilingual individual's brain has two active language systems which work simultaneously without hindering the performance of other. Thus, ensuring that the brain is always exercising both its linguistically oriented cognitive functions.
➜ Bilinguals are also able to conjure multiple phrases or words for each idea and object. While coming up with the words, bilinguals will think in both languages and thereafter choose the most appropriate options. Monolinguals on the other hand utilize their limited reservoir of words.
➜ General reasoning and ability to conceptualize among bilinguals improves drastically when advanced linguistic skills such as code-switching, accent neutralization, and syntax appropriation are acquired. This ability to grasp and improve, makes it easier for bilinguals to learn newer languages and evolve into multilingual speakers.
➜ Cognitive flexibility also improves through divergent and convergent thinking, wherein the speaker builds on a single idea and derives a suitable conclusion after scrutinizing various arguments. This ability has been attributed to parallel data processing.
➜ Bilingual speakers develop metalinguistic awareness and can differentiate between the implied and literal meaning of words and phrases. Such people can think beyond labels, symbols, and language structure because their minds are not restrained to think in a single language.
➜ While conversing with others, a bilingual will automatically switch to the language which is understood by the listener so as to ease the flow of communication. Whereas, monolinguals would be forced to converse in the only language they know.
➜ Being bilingual has a positive effect on intellectual growth as well. It helps enhance and enrich a person's mental development and awareness, because the rate of language assimilation, retentivity, and grasping of phonetics is higher among bilinguals as compared to monolinguals.

Academic Benefits

➜ Research has revealed that bilingual and multilingual individuals tend to perform better in competitive examinations. It is believed that bilinguals fare better at IQ tests because of their ability to think of multiple possible scenarios, so as to derive a suitable conclusion.
➜ Bilinguals find it easier to learn new languages and thus fare better in immersion programs.
➜ Bilinguals are also able to understand and appreciate the literature and discourses of their second language.

Benefits for Kids

➜ Kids have a natural aptitude for picking up new words and sounds because of the vast spectra of lingual inputs they are exposed to.
➜ Bilingual children can easily break down words into its component sounds and therefore categorizing words comes naturally to them. It is easier for bilingual children to detect rhyming words. Their responses can also be equally fast in both the languages.
➜ According to the renowned Canadian psychologist Ellen Bialystok, bilingual children are better at solving verbal and nonverbal problems that contain misleading and confusing aspects.

➜ Bialystok's research also revealed that bilingual children were better at detecting grammatical errors and extracting words from continuous verbal sentences.
➜ Bilingual children also fare better in reading and verbal skills as compared to monolingual children.

➜ In her research paper, 'Reshaping the Mind: The Benefits of Bilingualism', Ellen Bialystok states that bilinguals outperform monolinguals in tasks based on applying executive control.

Health Benefits of Bilingualism

➜ Research has suggested that elderly bilinguals have more cognitive control as compared to monolinguals.

➜ According to a study by UCLA Professor Jared Diamond, children who grow up in a bilingual family have lesser chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.
➜ In yet another study of Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists of the University of California found that they were more resistant to such diseases than their monolingual counterparts.
Their research also revealed that the age of onset of Alzheimer's is directly proportionate to the degree of bilingualism.

The Character/ Personality Advantage

Bilinguals are able to emote better. Their temperament is generally adaptive and they can be more genial, as compared to single language speakers. With increased familiarity of dialects, they find greater confidence and sense of self-esteem.

The Cultural Advantage

Bilingualism offers greater exposure to different cultures and builds bridges between them. Knowledge of different languages entails a treasure of traditional and contemporary sayings, idioms, history, folk stories, music, movies, literature, and poetry of different countries and cultures.
An extensive cultural experience also creates greater tolerance, open-mindedness, and appreciation.

The Employment Advantage

Bilinguals are preferred over monolinguals for jobs that require them to travel extensively or communicate with a wider group of people. Individuals who are proficient in a foreign language can work as translators, diplomats, teachers, doctors, etc.
Employing bilinguals also helps in exploring new avenues and pooling in new clients from around the word. Bilingual and multilingual employees can also help in training new members when the need arises.
The biggest advantage of being bilingual is that the individual gets to be a part of two diverse communities without feeling excluded. Whereas, it can be extremely challenging for monolinguals to step out of their comfort zone and communicate with people who do not speak the same language as them.