As we progress through the 21st century, multiculturalism is taking shape in all our major towns and cities. Studies have shown a sharp increase in multi-cultural families in the EU and it is believed that when we hit 2020 most of Europe will have a cross section of families who speak 2 or 3 different languages. Language learning is fast becoming the norm for most children, in fact more than half of the under 18 population around the world speak at least two languages (and / or dialects). In a number of countries there is more than one official language. For example South Africa has 11, Belgium having 3 and Spain around 4.
In 2017 the rise of U.S. households using more than one language spiked. Statistics show in 1980 10.97% spoke a different language, and in 2007 this statistic had jumped to almost double 19.73% with a huge jump to over 25% in 2017.
The excitement and want to learn another language is at an all time high. Travel has become easier, global communications in business and education are the norm now and the desire to not be monolingual is trending across the world. So, what are the key benefits of being bilingual?
Psychologically, language learning is proven to be a therapeutic and brain training exercise to keep the mind sharp. It has also been medically noted, that learning another language can prevent early dementia and enable faster stroke recovery. We don’t understand the full science behind these statements, but anything that expands the mind and keeps us healthy must be great right?
It has been proven that bilingual children who are educated in a second language have been able to outperform monolingual students who speak in their native language. We also know that bi / multi-lingual graduates are sought after by over 50% of the Fortune 500 list.
An obvious one, but did you know some countries frown upon visitors who do not actively attempt to use their native language. While the world is becoming more accepting of diversity, language barriers still remain in small pockets of our planet, so respect is earned when we adapt and converse on our travels.
The business world is becoming smaller with advancements in global technology. Companies with multiple offices often source bi / multi-lingual employees to converse between locations and grow business in those locales. Not only is it great to converse in a different language with international colleagues it can also open more job opportunities. It is becoming increasingly common that more and more companies now look at language skills as an added string to someone’s bow. In fact, recent studies have shown significant salary differences, based on bilingual ability. It was proven that bilingualism can enable you to command up to an extra $14,000 per annum in the U.S. in some sectors.
Another proven benefit of being bilingual is better concentration. People with more than one language have shown to be more skillful in complex concentration tasks or exam conditions.
Learning a new language can also improve memory. The act of memorizing new vocabulary and rules of a new language strengthens the mental muscles, leading the brain to exercise overall memory capacity. Increased brain activity allows bilinguals to better remember things such as sequences and lists.
We all know how important it is for children to learn as much as possible at a young age. Those who are taught another language, whether it be at home or at school, get a more positive and fulfilling educational experience. Not only does it give those who may be of mixed heritage a sense of identity and cultural awareness, but the ability to concentrate more and multi task comes as an added bonus. It also setting the foundations for them to open more doors later in life. More importantly bilingual children will inevitably be exposed to more than one culture, therefore this will give them the foundations of understanding others and accepting different cultures and people.
So maybe next time you’re thinking of a New Year’s resolution or to take up a new hobby, why not try learning a new language? The benefits speak for themselves!
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