Having the ability to speak more than one language is a true benefit. Most people believe the only benefits of being bilingual are the capacity of communicating with other people around the world, to travel seamlessly in another country, to immerse in another culture, and to be able to simply order off a menu in a different language. However, being bilingual (or multilingual for those people I am jealous of) is more than that. It can be healthy for your brain in ways even neurologists are still discovering. Thinking in multiple languages can improve cognitive skills in areas such as math and science. There has even been studies showing that it lowers your chances of developing dementia later in life.
I recently read an article in the New York Times about how learning a second language can improve the way you think and increase your ability to solve problems. The most logical reason for that is it provides your brain with more than one-way to achieve the same task. This hit me personally, because when I learned my second language I became more alert and overtime I realized that I was better equipped to deal with problems in both work and in life.
According to the article, studies have found that if you are bilingual, both language systems are active in your brain even when you are speaking only one of the languages, which makes one system obstruct the other. However, that is perfectly fine because that action forces your brain to resolve internal conflict, and strengthens your mind’s cognitive muscles. When you speak more than one language the executive function of your brain works better, which means you are better at planning, solving problems and most importantly multitasking. That also means that you react more efficiently in the case of new or unexpected circumstances.
By being bilingual, you are always choosing which language you are going to say aloud, and that provides you with practice to handle more things at once, as well as making decisions that are more rational.
According to a study in the International Journal of Bilingualism, bilingual kids are better at solving problems and creativity. Bilingual kids also are faster at switching between tasks than monolingual kids.
We should always remember that having cultural experience creates greater tolerance and open-mindedness. It also helps our children to have more adaptive temperaments to deal with life’s changes.
There are more than 6,500 languages around the word. It might not be too late for you or your child to pick one and learn a second language. You do not need to speak perfectly to benefit from multiple languages. Every little bit helps.