In an increasingly globalised world, the advantages to learning English as a second language are obvious. English knocks down barriers to communication like no other language on the planet. As English is the most sought after language there is, it means you'll likely meet English speakers like yourself no matter where you go. Then there’s the benefits of having ready access to the world of international business and education, opening endless possibilities for the future. But there’s more to being bilingual than just the practical side of things – here’s a list of other advantages that bilingualism bestows upon a speaker:
You become great at multitasking
Knowing two or more languages means that the brain is constantly having to shift back and forth between one language system to another. Whilst this was initially thought of as bothersome interference that confused the thinker, it was later revealed that the act of switching between languages gives your brain a cognitive workout – and makes you more equipped to tackle multiple tasks at the same time!
It improves your confidence
Having the ability to cross-communicate between different groups of people feels like a superpower. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability when interacting with strangers, even if you don't currently know their language. By that point you have already been through the process of learning a language – and you will be aware that much of the difficulty in the process comes from not having the self-esteem to express yourself in that language. Once you have been through it once, it'll be easier next time. And in the meantime, you'll be able to communicate more widely and freely, making socialising more dynamic.
It reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
Consistent studies have proved that bilingualism promotes healthy brain function, staving off the onset of memory-loss and age-related diseases by an average of up to four years, a quite considerable difference.
You improve in your native language
As a child, language attainment occurs in a space that’s quite often divorced from academic principles. Learning a second or a third language in later life requires you to be much more aware of the rules of sentence structure, grammar and conjugations. It gives you a clearer view on the way language is customised and adapted to purpose, which provides a sharper awareness of the facets of your first language in the process, allowing you to become a more adept writer and editor. It also refines your listening skills, as you’re now better equipped to interpret meaning from discreet sounds.
Challenges that once seemed insurmountable are now viewed as possible
This is perhaps one of the greatest hidden advantages of learning a new language. Fluency in a non-native tongue may at first seem like an enormously daunting task. But once you start making progress – and consistently improve over time – the way you view the challenge of learning a new language changes indefinitely. It no longer seems like one impossible block of learning, but a series of smaller, composite lessons that inform a larger skillset. Having this awareness changes the way you view enormous challenges and prepares you for tackling the future in an undeniably life-altering way.
There are many more advantages to multilingual talents - OISE stands ready to turn the dream of bilingual mastery into reality in English, French, German and Spanish.
Written by Sam Kearns, Community Manager.