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Jan 222014
 

Bilingual is better - the advantages of speaking more than one language

I have been reading many articles on the benefits of bilingualism lately and I decided to gather some of the best ones into one post and share them with you. This is one of my favourite topics, so I have already written about it on different occasions: how languages have helped me in my career, my daughter’s experience of being bilingual, how bilingualism gives you a confidence boost and how it makes you focus better.

The most significant advantage which has been reported recently must be the fact that “bilingual patients developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual ones.” This was the outcome of a research lead by Dr Thomas Bak. It also concluded that “bilingual switching between different sounds, words, concepts, grammatical structures and social norms constituted a form of natural brain training, which was likely to be more effective than any artificial brain training programme”. For further details, read BBC’s article Speaking a second language may delay dementia. The full research paper can be bought here.

Bilingualism has also been found to enhance a child’s working memory as shown by a research  conducted at the University of Granada under the supervision of Ellen Bialystok.  The “working memory includes the structures and processes associated with the storage and processing of information over short periods of time.” You can read more about this in the article Bilingual children have a better “working memory” than monolingual children

In their article Being Bilingual Makes You Smarter The social network Verbalisti  write that “the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.”



Bilinguals are better at multi-tasking. “Children who grow up learning to speak two languages are better at switching between tasks than are children who learn to speak only one language” as explained in Bilingual Children Switch Tasks Faster than Speakers of a Single Language

Bilingualism makes you more open-minded and sensitive to others:  “bilinguals have an enhanced awareness of other people’s points of view, born from their deeper understanding, from an early age, that some people have a different perspective.” This probably makes bilinguals better managers as well as stated in the Financial Times article The Multilingual Dividend

Another study found that bilingualism enhances your listening ability. It showed that in a noisy environment bilinguals are “better at detecting the different sounds, therefore enhancing attention.” Read more in the article Study Indicates Bilinguals are Better Listeners (Literally).

Bilingual children are less easily distracted. Judy Willis MD, a neurologist, teacher and author states that “compared to monolinguals, the bilingual children develop greater attention focus, distraction resistance, decision-making judgment and responsiveness to feedback”  and that “research supports encouraging parents to retain use of their native language in the home” in her article Neuroscience and the Bilingual Brain.

If you grow up as a bilingual you are often also bicultural. In his article Advantages of Being Bicultural  Prof François Grosjean lists the benefits as “having a greater number of social networks, being aware of cultural differences, taking part in the life of two or more cultures, being an intermediary between cultures” as well as having “greater creativity and professional success”.

I will finish with a great infographic from www.BHLingual.com which says it all:


How-the-brain-benefits-from-being-bilingual

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2014

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  52 Responses to “Bilingual is better: the advantages of speaking more than one language”

  1. Thank you for this brilliant post pro-bilingualism (and multilingualism)! I was wondering if this data about dementia etc. depends on how frequently people use the two or more languages. If not used on a regular – almost daily – basis, I guess these results may differ and come closer to monolinguals? And, the question of the questions: what degree of bilingualism is necessary to profit from all these positive effects? 😉

    • Thank you for reading! With regards to dementia, you do need to use both languages regularly, as what gives the positive effect is the switching from one language (or even dialect) to another. However you do not need to be fluent to gain most of these advantages – if you can (and do) use two languages confidently in your day-to-day life, you’re in!

  2. This is a fantastic article! I will be linking to in my resources page on my blog. Thanks Rita!

  3. Reblogged this on Language for life and commented:
    I have said it myself, but Rita Rosenback summarizes it at a very readbly way – The Advantages of Speaking more than One Language”

  4. An amazing post as usual 😀
    I really enjoyed it.

  5. […] The way bilingual children learn a language is different from monolingual children and what may on the surface seem to be a delay in vocabulary learning is actually a different learning pattern. Bilingual children catch up soon enough, and they gain an array of benefits alongside another language (see last week’s post Bilingual is better – the advantages of speaking more than one language). […]

  6. […] me there is no doubt that being bilingual can only be beneficial for you. Some people have challenged my view and asked me to write about situations that would have […]

  7. […] in doubt about whether to bring up your children to become bilinguals or not, read about all the great benefits your children will gain if you do decide to do it. We all want what is best for our children, so […]

  8. […] in doubt about whether to bring up your children to become bilinguals or not, read about all the great benefits your children will gain if you do decide to do it. We all want what is best for our children, so […]

  9. Very good article. My children are bilingual (English and French) and my five year-old daughter is the only kid able to read in her kindergarten class, which proves that bilingual children learn to read faster.

  10. […] I have been reading many articles on the benefits of bilingualism lately and I decided to gather some of the best ones into one post and share them with you. This is one of my favourite topics, so …  […]

  11. […] to do at the best of times, so you need to be realistic about what you can take on. There are a lot of benefits in becoming bilingual for your child, but a highly stressed-out parent due to additional pressure from language us is a […]

  12. […] the benefits of bilingualism are getting more widely known and the old myths about it dispelled, more and more parents decide to […]

  13. […] need it!” and it is up to you to make the case for his future as a bilingual. Tell him about the advantages an additional language will give him: it will improve his employment prospects and give him a wider […]

  14. […] cultural background; you will be proud that your children can speak your language … plus all the other benefits bilingualism brings. Whatever the reasons are, they are the right ones for you. Note down these […]

  15. […] in the spirit of the first one, but I know that this is not always the case. Still today, when the benefits of bilingualism are widely known and the old myths about confusion and language delay dispelled, some parents still […]

  16. […] do brain training which strengthens the executive control centre of the brain. This and other bilingualism benefits help bilinguals fend off Alzheimer’s disease, on average, for four and a half years longer – so […]

  17. […] have decided to bring up your children to become bilingual so they can reap all the benefits of knowing more than one language. Exciting! You speak to your family and friends about your […]

  18. […] Unfortunately these kinds of situations are not too uncommon, and they are particularly difficult to deal with for multilingual families. After all, teachers are professionals and as such authorities that you have been taught to listen to and whose advise you would normally take. The sad fact is that not all teachers are aware of what bilingualism entails and may even jump to conclusions about what effect it has on learning. Research has however showed that being bilingual is not a disadvantage, but actually the very opposite. […]

  19. […] 如果你还是在怀疑是否要培育小孩拥有双语能力,读读这些如果你决定进行双语教育,孩子能获得的益处。大家都希望给孩子最好的,你何不支持你的孩子,送給他們能说一种以上语言,这个美好的礼物呢? […]

  20. […] 如果你還是在懷疑是否要培育小孩擁有雙語能力,讀讀這些如果你決定進行雙語教育,孩子能獲得的益處。大家都希望給孩子最好的,你何不支持你的孩子,送給他們能說一種以上語言,這個美好的禮物呢? […]

  21. […] Zweifel bestehen, ob man ein Kind zweisprachig erziehen soll oder nicht, kann man sich über die vielen Vorteile informieren, die eine zweisprachige Erziehung mit sich bringt. Wir alle wollen nur das Beste für […]

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  23. […] aún dudan si van a criar a sus hijos bilingües o no, lean todos los beneficios magníficos que sus hijos ganaran si lo hacen. Todos queremos lo mejor para nuestros hijos, entonces porque no […]

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  26. […] pochybách, jestli své děti vychovávat tak, aby se staly bilingvními, přečtěte si o všech úžasných přínosech, které vaše děti získají, pokud se tak rozhodnete. My všichni chceme pro své děti to […]

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  28. […] în ceea ce privește creșterea copiilor pentru ca aceștia să devină bilingvi, citiți despre extraordinarele beneficii pe care copiii voștri le vor avea dacă totuși vă hotărâți să mergeți în această […]

  29. […] is no denying the many and long-term benefits that bilingualism brings with it to your child. This is a gift you can give independent of your own […]

  30. […] чи виховувати ваших дітей двомовними, дізнайтеся про величезні переваги, які вони зможуть отримати внаслідок такого рішення. […]

  31. […] 10. Grow up with many additional benefits […]

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  35. […] está em dúvida se deve ou não educar seus filhos para que sejam bilíngues, leia sobre todos os grandes benefícios que seus filhos ganharão se você por assim decidir. Todos nós queremos o que é melhor para os […]

  36. […] doutez encore pour savoir si oui ou non vous élèverez vos enfants de manière bilingue, lisez ces bienfaits sur les enfants bilingues. Nous voulons tous le meilleur pour nos enfants, alors pourquoi ne pas […]

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  39. […] steadily. This is great news, because scientists and educators have been proclaiming for years that people who speak multiple languages receive many benefits and there is a strong correlation between increased intelligence and bilingual […]

  40. […] bilingual has many advantages, but these need to be weighed up against possible drawbacks of not using a native language – […]

  41. […] think about the reasons you decided to embark on this journey in the first place. Consider all the advantages that bilingualism brings with it. Speak to other parents and ask for their support – they will be […]

  42. […] reasons why you are pursuing it. Do you do it because you want your child to gain all the benefits that bilingualism brings with it? Did you grow up bilingual yourself and want your kids to be, too? […]

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  44. […] D’autres avantages à évoquer ou plaisants à savoir sont que connaître une ou plusieurs lan… […]

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