Education - Learning
By: - at June 12, 2013

The Benefits of Being Bilingual

Bilingualism benfits of being a bilingual speakerBilingualism is simply defined as the ability to communicate fluently in two languages. It is estimated that about half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages (or the dialects) in daily conversations. Present in almost all parts of the world, it is observed to be common even among children. It is quite a wonder for experts to ever understand how people can actually make use of two or more languages at once.

It is estimated that there are a great number of young bilinguals. This is commonly observed among immigrant families that provide an environment for acquisition of two languages to take place. Often, children are inclined to use their home language when they are with family members, and use English, for example, in school or in the community. Perhaps one reason for doing this is to keep the culture alive.

Additionally, there is an increasing number of professionals who make use of their language skills to communicate with foreign business partners. Consequently, with their exposure, they discover new cultures and eventually develop new perspectives about the world as they acquire an understanding and eliminate language barriers.

Contributing Factors
There is no single factor believed to be the most influential for bilingualism. There are, however, some circumstances that may help people acquire two languages at the same time. First, many countries have several languages. For example, Indonesia has about 720, the Philippines with about 135, about 415 in India, about 200 in Australia, and so on.

Contributing Factors to bilingual speakers

With the diversity of each group represented by the language they use, contact between them can only be possible by learning to communicate in one common language. Second, business and trade relationships have helped foster bilingualism as both sellers and buyers from different territories of the world must learn a language spoken by a counterpart. Many employees from countries like Switzerland or Sweden would speak English at work and the mother tongue when they go home. Some countries like Canada even have something the Canadians have named The Bilingual Belt.

Canada's Bilingual Belt - 1-English, 2-English and French, 3-French
map of the bilingual belt in Canada English and french spoken
By Zorion via Wikimedia Commons

The Bilingual Belt refers to the regions where instead of either French or English being predominantly spoken, these regions tend to heavily mix the two languages where some regions speak only French while others only speak English. And to make matters even more confusing to tourists, there are regions that speak an almost equal mix of both English and French. Third, the consistent increase in immigration has caused people to learn the language of the new place while preserving that of their own. Lastly, many countries have adapted laws on bilingual education where students must know how to use the official language of the country and their dialect plus English. In this case, students even become more technically good at language that is not their mother tongue.

Advantages of Bilingualism
Bilingual AdvantageIn this ever dynamic world, it has become quite a necessity to speak more than one language. Bilinguals enjoy the privilege to communicate with people whose language may not be common to the world. This is because they are able to connect with those who share their native language, their second language, or even their foreign language. The following are the advantages of being bilingual:

1)  Cognition
Research shows that when given a test on creative or divergent thinking, bilinguals score higher than monolinguals. This is due to the fact that they are believed to be able to think more freely, creatively and elaborately in the same manner they can process their language use. Being able to process both L1 and L2 brings benefits even outside of the language functions. A study conducted by Bialystok in 1986 claims that bilingual children have increased ability in solving problems that involved higher levels of linguistic processing.

Cognition Bilingual language learning

Additionally, it has fostered the ability to develop word distinctions, sensitivity to language structures, detection of ambiguities and correction of ungrammatical and mixed sentences. Keeping the brain active with this mental process is believed to lower the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s in old age.

2)  Communication
The ability to speak more than one language is deemed helpful in keeping family relationships stronger. This is especially true to those who belong to families from different cultures or subculture. When a child from these unions know languages both parents have as their mother tongue, it is easy to maintain links with the extended family. In the same light, bilinguals are also known to be more sensitive to nuances in communication.

Communication bilingual

They also develop the awareness as to what language can be used to speak with a specific person in a certain situation, picking up clues and able to switch from one language to another.

3)  International relations
The ability to understand and use at least two different languages opens up new opportunities to extend one’s personal ties with people from different language-based communities. Additionally, it can help enhance perspectives on the views and values associated with the language the bilingual speaks.

International relations bilingual language speaker

A research conducted by Panos Athanasopoulos of Newcastle University suggests that bilinguals see the world in a different way as they tend to think differently. It was further stated one does not have to be proficient in the second language; rather, frequent use is all that is needed.

4)  Acculturation
Because language acquisition comes with culture orientations, bilinguals have the opportunities to experience two cultures, or adapt one that is not their own. With language and its expressions come knowledge of traditions and customs. Because language is the channel of communication, speakers capture the ideas and values of the culture using it. It also helps build interactions with those in their environment.

Acculturation and bilingual societies language

It is believed that bilingual societies or even subcultures are likely to bind with those that share similarities, thus, overcoming barriers and adapting mutually acceptable behaviors.

5)  Tolerance
Though it is yet to be proven scientifically, bilinguals are believed to be more tolerant than monolinguals. This is because they are open to diversity and differences as connected with the qualities or structures of the languages they use. In Britain, a survey suggested that many parents think raising a bilingual child can help them sustain the rapid changes in society, making them more tolerant to minorities.

Tolerance and bilingualism language bilingual speaker

Because learning another language enhances personality, it is easy to immerse in subcultures where friends in school or community belong to.

6)  Confidence
The ability to speak different languages is known to raise self-esteem. Depending on territory, bilingualism can be seen as a positive thing. There are countries where speaking of two languages is deemed necessary to be competitive in school, or at work in the community. A study done by the University of Windsor in Canada revealed that bilingual students have higher self-esteem and social ease.

self Confidence and self-esteem are byproducts of being bilingual

It was claimed that linguistic proficiency brings about some psychological advantages to speakers. Being able to communicate with a diverse group of people we meet every day is proven to boost self-esteem.

7)  Academic achievement
Studies revealed that bilingual school children perform better in school. With many countries adapting English, for example, as medium of instruction for some subjects, higher proficiency in this language can result to higher academic success.

Academic achievement success from being bilingual speaker

Additionally, when bilinguals are actually immigrants, exposure to the dominant language in school and in the community increases their fluency in a short period of time enabling them to keep up with their peers who speak their second language as the mother tongue. This achievement is linked with their increased self-confidence, as well as a wider perspective of the world, and the ability to think critically.

8)  Job Market Competitiveness
Companies seek for people who are able to communicate with their diverse group of clients. Because bilinguals are in demand, they have higher chances to find high paying jobs in the media, marketing or customer service industries. In the US alone, the need for workers who can speak English and another language has been on a steady rise as global economy and multinational corporations continue to grow. With globalization comes the interconnection of economies and companies need people who can understand what is happening in the world.

Job Market Competitiveness as a bilingual speaker

A US based company, for example, seeking to build partnerships with a Japanese corporation, might take the service of bilingual to decode economic news from Japan before reaching a decision. Companies shoot down many of the barriers to entering international markets by employing native language speakers.

Concluding Thoughts
The world is a home to people of different religion, culture and language. With some parts of the globe becoming melting pots, there is a need for people even in the dominant culture to learn another language. This necessity is characterized by the sprouting of language schools offering lessons on the most popular language of the world. Many institutions of learning also included foreign languages as part of the curricula. The need to understand the grammar, structure and vocabulary of the language being learned is necessary to achieve bilingual status.

Being bilingual opens opportunities to develop sensitivity, flexibility and perspectives of the world and its people. It enhances understanding of the culture and its citizens. Additionally, it can deepen one’s appreciation for the native tongue. The knowledge of other language and the ability to convey and understand messages through that medium can boost personal, educational, social and employment opportunities. Knowing another language improves linguistic and metalinguistic abilities, enhances cognitive flexibility, reasoning and critical thinking in general.

The languages you speak are closely related to your identity. It helps shape how you view the world. In most situations, being bilingual makes you feel at home at a variety of social contexts, giving you the ability to look at things from another viewpoint.





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