The advantages of being bilingual
Today we live in a multicultural society whose strength is the ability of different cultures and languages to blend together. According to an European Commission survey more than half of Europe's population speak two or more languages. Apart from obvious advantages of speaking more than one language, like broader communication, there a lot of other benefits, some of which you may have never known before.
Education and Career prospects
Speaking more than one language fluently obviously provides better chances for further education and career paths. Languages open up new options for your career which will not be available to monolingual speakers. Due to globalisation and co-operations between companies in different countries, people with bilingual skills are very valuable. This skill will also open up a varied range of activity fields that you can work in.
Improvement in Learning
Learning languages and being bilingual at a young age has great benefits to children as it improves their performance in school. Metalinguistic abilities promote a more intimate understanding of verbal and nonverbal communication which improves children's literacy skills. Bilingual individuals also perform better when they are challenged to multi task and focus on individual tasks. Bilinguality also boosts a person's creativity as it promotes outside-the-box thinking. All of these result in greater intellectual flexibility and general better performance in intelligence test.
While studying a second language and using them both on an everyday basis, you improve your cognitive skills. This means that executive functions of your brain like problem solving, attentional control, mental flexibility, inhibitory control and task switching - all greatly improve with the help of bilinguality. This is not limited to learning a language at a young age: it also stays with you during your whole life.
Some neurological changes in information processing have been noticed in bilingual individuals. For these individuals, the blood flow is greater in the brainstem in response to the sound which results in advantages in auditory attention sensory processing. Being bilingual also affects the structure of our brain with the left hemisphere having a denser gray matter which happens due to the need to manage the balance between the two languages.
Protection against Dementia
Speaking multiple languages acts as a training and maintenance for our brain, allowing it to last longer without giving in to age related illnesses like Alzheimer's disease. Bilingualism appears to postpone the natural decline of cognitive function and promotes a 'cognitive reserve' which maintains and enhances brain function during aging. Switching between two languages helps to keep the cognitive mechanisms sharp and working well, and compensates for brain networks that have been affected during aging. It does not totally prevent these illnesses however, but just postpones them giving people some more lucid time.
There are also great social benefits to bilingualism. Learning a language in a group is already a form of socialising that will improve one's communication skills. Bilingual experience also provides one with great listening skills and allows you to connect with others easily. Cultural and environmental awareness is developed due to the need to process and monitor external factors and pick up on patterns and subtleties.
Migration and travel
Being able to speak two or more languages also provides the opportunity to travel or even move to another country if you choose to. It is another great way of learning about the world and widening your horizons. Not having geographical limits for your life all thanks to an extra language is already a great reason to learn one.
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