Bilingualism implies to the ability to speak and understand two languages. Hind Louali points out that bilinguals are not necessarily equally fluent in all the languages they know; it is in fact quite common to have a dominant language. Many people think that their kids will pick up languages if they’re simply exposed to them. However, it does require a level of consistency, commitment, and creative reinforcement for any person to learn and maintain a second language, regardless of their age. But these efforts are definitely worth it, owing to the many benefits of bilingualism.
Hind Louali lists a few advantages of bilingualism
The advantages of bilingualism extend beyond just being able to communicate with a wider range of people. In fact, it can impact many aspects of one’s life. The major advantages of bilingualism include:
Cognitive benefits: Bilingual individuals quite commonly exhibit improved problem-solving skills, cognitive flexibility, and multitasking abilities. The constant juggling between two languages strengthens the executive control system of their brain. This leads to better mental agility, decision making, and attention span. In fact, bilingualism has also been linked to reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline.
Cultural understanding and empathy: Knowing a second language can expose a person to brand new cultures, traditions, and way of thinking. Bilingualism often fosters enhanced cultural empathy and understanding, as individuals gain better insights into diverse perspectives and worldviews. It also helps in improving their appreciation for diversity, and overall tolerance level, as well as the ability to navigate intercultural interactions with respect and open-mindedness.
Improved language skills: As a person puts in efforts to learn and use two or more languages, they eventually gain a deeper understanding of the structures, grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of each of the language. This improved linguistic awareness commonly translates to better verbal communication, writing, and reading skills. It helps bilingual individuals to express themselves in a more effectively in distinctive contexts.
Enhanced academic performance: Bilingualism has often been linked to improved academic performance across various subjects. Bilingual students commonly display better problem-solving abilities, better scores on standardized tests, and greater academic achievement on the whole. The language proficiency and cognitive advantages of these students pave way for the usage of advanced critical thinking skills and creativity in the learning process.
Expanded career opportunities: As the world progresses towards globalization, bilingualism has become pretty valuable in the job market, especially if one speaks a popular language like French or Spanish. Many employers today seek candidates who can effectively communicate with international clients, partners, and colleagues. Bilingual individuals hence have a competitive edge, as they are able to bridge language and cultural gaps much better than the others, and expand their career options both domestically and internationally.
As Hind Louali mentions, for many the knowledge of a second language can actually opens doors to new social connections and cultural interactions. Bilingual individuals have the advantage of communicating effortlessly and building relationships with people from varying linguistic backgrounds. This ability promotes a sense of belonging in diverse communities, facilitates intercultural understanding, and fosters social inclusiveness.