Multilingualism: Why More than One Language is Better

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Multilingualism: Why More than One Language is Better

Those who are bilingual often need to use their different languages in different situations and with varied individuals / Photo by Rawpixel via 123RF

 

Language is one of the most effective methods of communication between people. There are hundreds of different languages and dialects found throughout the world, connecting people of different cultures and backgrounds. It’s easy to see why knowing more than one language could be beneficial. But there’s much more to it than just an extra language.

 

Practical Advantages

Although there aren’t any exact values, it is estimated that about more than half the world is bi- or multilingual to a certain degree. Becoming multilingual has been depicted in media and the like as being a great advantage, and there is great evidence to this.

Of course, one of the most obvious benefits is that you can more easily communicate with those who speak other languages. If you happen to travel and find yourself among natives who only speak their own language and you happen to know it, you won’t have as much trouble communicating with them. When it comes to opportunities, there a number of jobs that would more readily hire someone bilingual, especially when the job entails contact with people in other countries.

Having a wider language range can also help one better appreciate a culture. There are several aspects of a song or a movie that can get lost in translation. Cultural subtleties, according to Huffpost.com, can be better understood if you have a grasp of the original meaning, as well as the cultural context in which something is being said. The original form of a piece of media is often best represented in its original language and context.

Cognitive Benefits

Over years of study, there has been a wealth of evidence to suggest that there are cognitive advantages to being multilingual. Those who know more than one language are better able to appreciate the differences in nuance, grammar, and sentence structure better between two languages. Thus, they have a better appreciation and understanding of their use, which can make multilinguals better editors, writers, and overall communicators. It even helps them to pick up more quickly on other languages.

Aside from language, other executive functions of the brain are also enhanced. A person’s ability to switch between two languages seems to coincide with an increased ability to switch between two tasks and have more efficient working memory. They are capable of better controlling their attention, whether it be holding it or switching it. According to Brainscape.com, multilinguals have a better understanding of the fact that thoughts can be expressed in more than one way, and in several languages. This helps them develop a mental flexibility and a keener ability to solve problems and perceive situations from different perspectives.

By using MRI machines, it has been found that bilingual brains have an easier time processing sensory input, especially auditory stimuli. They are also better able to sift out unwanted information and focus on relevant ones.

Personal Meaning and Connection

For many people, being able to speak in a certain language becomes part of their personal identity and becomes a part of the way they think and communicate. Speaking in a certain language for some helps them communicate with family members and friends who are from their own or a completely different culture. It helps them build a sense of heritage with where their family’s roots lie through the common language. More meaningful relationships can be forged through conversations, as opposed to gestures and non-verbal forms of communication.

People also tend to develop a better sense of their own communication skills and self-expression. As they learn how to communicate in another language, they start to prefer certain tones and methods of speaking and how to present their thoughts. This then allows for introspection when it comes to what sort of image you project or wish to give about yourself to others.

 

Change in Personality?

It’s often joked that those who know two languages have two different personalities. For example, someone who speaks English and Spanish may come off as businesslike and serious when speaking the former and outgoing and friendly when speaking the latter. As stated by Psychology Today, this is possibly a result of a shift in context and situation instead of a shift in language.

Becoming multilingual has been depicted in media and the like as being a great advantage / Photo by Rawpixel via 123RF

 

Those who are bilingual often need to use their different languages in different situations and with varied individuals. One who speaks a certain language at school or at work may speak a completely different one at home around the family. The way someone will behave in those specific situations will definitely vary accordingly. And since they would speak a different language in those instances, many multilinguals will associate this change in language with an altered personality. In fact, it was found that it is unlikely that a regular switch in the language you’re using changes your personality outright.

Multilingualism not only opens people to various opportunities but also allows them to better connect with others. Those who are interested in learning a new language should definitely take the opportunity to do so.

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