More than half of the world’s population is bilingual, according to a September 2012 report in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, and create the word ‘polyglot’ with the letters provided.
While the career benefits and social advantages of knowing more than one language are well known, there are many other upsides to being multi-lingual. Here are a few that may surprise you:
1. You become better at learning new languages
The more time you spend learning a new language, the easier it gets for you to learn other new languages. According to online web and mobile education platform Brainscape, being exposed to the mechanics of new languages, like its unique rules for conjugations, grammar and sentence composition, helps people learn to truly understand the structure of any language and navigate around how it should be used. It’s why multilingual people tend to be more effective communicators, more compelling writers, and more exacting editors.
2. You experience less cognitive decline as you age
An October 2021 study published in the journal Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, found that learning a second language is a powerful, effective way to improve brain health. Researchers established in their study that older adults who studied Spanish showed similar improvements in cognitive skills, as did those who went through brain training activities that targeted those skills. The participants who learned Spanish also found it to be a far more enjoyable experience than those who went through the brain training exercise. Language learning is also an effective way to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies, like a November 2010 study in the journal Neurology, have shown that it can delay the onset of such diseases by an average of five years!
3. You have better developed executive control systems
When you speak more than one language, you’re able to easily switch between them without thinking much about it. It’s one of the skills that helps improve your executive control system – the area in your brain that controls your ability to switch your attention between things, and exercise working memory. Multilingual are better able to perform tasks that need high-level thought, multitasking, and sustained attention.
4. You make more rational decisions
A University of Chicago study published in the American journal Psychological Science in April 2012 found that bilinguals tend to make more rational decisions than monolingual people. The reasoning behind this may be because language contains nuanced words, and meanings with subtle implications – all of which, can subconsciously influence your judgment and generate emotional biases when you think in a particular language (like your mother tongue). When you are multilingual, however, researchers found that people tend to be less affected by such biases – they draw their understanding of a problem from both languages, so they rely on analytic processes rather than emotional linguistic cues.