What are the Benefits of Bilingualism?
Since linguist and educator Helen Doron pioneered her groundbreaking methodology for teaching English to very young children, children around the world have benefitted from learning a second language the same way they learn their mother tongue.
A recent study commissioned by the European Commission, Directorate General Education and Culture agrees with Helen Doron’s findings:
1. The main benefit a person gains when committing to learn English or any language is the ability to communicate using the language, creating connections with a wider range of the world’s population.
2. The brain benefits from language learning, by undergoing a change in electrical activity. Before this study it was believed this change in brain functioning only occurred when students had obtained a high level of language ability in the new language, but this study revealed this change occurs at the earliest stages of language learning.
3. Another benefit of language learning is a “superior memory function.” Language learning showed an increase in memory capacities. This was especially strong in short-term memory. This is a huge benefit, because it allows the brain to keep information in the brain for longer durations while thinking processes are activated.
4. The brain also benefits from language learning by gaining increased mental flexibility. The study explains this keeps mental pathways “opened up” which allows a person to use “differing avenues for thought.” Language learning helps “exercise” the brain to keep it flexible and agile.
5. A person also benefits from language learning by gaining increased problem-solving abilities in all of the following areas: abstract thinking skills, concept formation, creative hypothesis formulation, strengthened capacity to identify, understanding and solving problems and the ability to focus on a task by filtering out distractions and not-needed information with an increase in multitasking ability.
6. Language acquisition also benefits a person by creating a greater comprehension for how language works and is used. The study found individuals with multilingual communication were able to better read and interpret social situations, which improved their performance in social settings.
7. Learning multiple languages also helps prevent the deterioration of brain functioning over time. The study reports that individuals who were multilingual had a decreased rate of 2 to 4 years in the development of age-related cognitive problems, such as dementia.
8. Because of these improved mental abilities, bilingual and multilingual individuals have an enhanced ability to stay up-to-date with modern technologies. That means that having increased mental agility due to language acquisition helps the average language learners better master all of the technological and informational changes constantly being developed and introduced into our lives.