We all learn at least one language in our childhood; and that process comes naturally and easily. This is because very young children have an innate talent for acquiring language, even ones beyond their mother-tongue. The advantages of becoming proficient in two or more languages from an early age are many and can have positive effects—social, professional and personal—that last a lifetime. Here are some examples:
Greater Reasoning Abilities
General reasoning and concept formation get better with the acquisition of advanced linguistic skills like code-switching, accent neutralization and syntax appropriation. Even at an early age, bilingual children show greater understanding of shapes and patterns and categorizing words comes naturally to them.
Longer Mental Health
Bilingualism keeps the mind sharp. While people often make extra efforts to boost the brain with challenging crossword puzzles and other mental exercises, bilinguals reap these benefits simply by using their two languages. According to a study by UCLA Professor Jared Diamond, children who grow up in a bilingual family have a significantly lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s. In yet another study, scientists at the University of California found that Spanish-English bilinguals were more resistant to the disease than monolinguals – the age of onset being directly proportional to the degree of bilingualism.
Meta-linguistic abilities are also developed easily in dual-language speakers. The differentiation between implied meanings and literal ones becomes clearer. One can think beyond labels, symbolism and language structure because the mind is not confined to thinking in a single language. The cognitive flexibility that comes with bilingualism also allows for easier thought processes such as coming to conclusions or building on ideas.
Greater Measured Intelligence
Being bilingual has a positive effect on intellectual growth as it enhances and enriches a person’s mental development. Current research shows that bilinguals are better at IQ tests as compared with monolinguals.
Increased Social Tolerance
Learning a new language can diminish many barriers to social and emotional wellbeing. It can help create better understanding between different ethnic groups and help drive out xenophobia.
Better Communication Skills
Dual-language speakers are aware of what language to speak with a person in a particular situation. Therefore, they are more sensitive to the needs of the listener than a monolingual person.
Better Language Hearing
Retention and comprehension of minute differences in sound are higher in bilinguals, even if they are not balanced bilinguals (equally proficient in both languages they speak). Bilingual kids have an aptitude for learning new words and sounds due to already having been exposed to a vast range of lingual input. They can easily break down words into component sounds and can also detect rhyming words much easier.