The majority of the benefits are obvious – better career and education opportunities, cultural and communication advantages, and more rewarding travel.
But, there are several other hidden benefits that people often don’t give too much thought to. Bilingual people, whether they realise it or not, have clear intellectual advantages.
Being bilingual can offer cognitive benefits outside just simple linguistic/speaking activities. They tend to be able to concentrate better because their brains are more used to blocking out distractions. For example, if you’re speaking English, your brain is automatically blocking out your native language – to keep you in ‘English’ mode. Furthermore, because you will often rapidly switch between the two languages, your brain becomes better at multitasking. Something that is of great benefit in work, school and life in general.
Bilingual people become used to thinking not only in two different languages but in two different cultures. Or, rather, in two different ways of thinking. This opens up so many further possibilities when it comes to being creative. They have two or more words for each concept and therefore a bilingual person is likely to have an enhanced ability to think creatively and to think more flexibly.
Another benefit of being closer to two distinct, different cultures, is that bilinguals are more attuned to the fact that different people can have different views. This means that bilinguals can empathise more easily and see other viewpoints. Social skills like these are always beneficial.
Less chance of Alzheimer’s
Ever seen those games marketed as ‘brain training’ to help stave off Alzheimer’s? Well, they don’t necessarily have a magic formula – they are just based on the fact that your mind is like a muscle and the more you work it, the stronger it remains. Using multiple languages is, similarly, an intellectual workout which will keep your brain sharper and more functional.
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