Folium: Is Bilingualism Really an Advantage? via The NewYorker
Throughout modern history the question had been asked; is bilingualism really an advantage? During the early 20th researchers believed that bilingualism, in fact, impeded a child’s verbal and intellectual development. These researchers thought if young children learned two languages, these two would obstruct each other and the child would not be able to master either language. Now, however, it has come to light, through far more accurate studies, that bilingual speakers actually have many advantages. Though the original research was partly true, being that once language can obstruct the other, this obstruction is actually beneficial and strengthens cognitive muscles to resolve the internal conflict. Bilingual children, especially, tend to be more flexible thinkers, have an easier time synthesizing new information, and have a greater understanding of their native language. Scientists believe that this is due to the fact that the command center in bilingual peoples brains are more nimble and able to switch back and forth between topics. These skills give children an intellectual edge throughout early and late childhood and will better prepare them for higher education. It also believed that being bilingual helps in later life. In a recent study that utilized both behavioral and neuroimaging methods, researchers saw that bilingualism to some extent protected against “cognitive decline” and that a bilingual person in generally less likely to experience symptoms of dementia in later life.
Beyond the proven scientific benefits, there are personal as well as cultural advantages of bilingualism. When travelling, speaking the native not only logistically simplifies a trip, in terms of being able to get bus tickets or order food without and communicational difficulties, but also allows increased an more meaningful cultural immersion. Those whom can speak the native language of a country are often looked upon more fondly than those who cannot, and this generally creates a much easier travel experience. People who speak the native language also have a much easier time making connections with people throughout a country and because of this can have a much more meaningful and educational travel experience. This ability to bridge cultures not only leads to personal betterment but leads to a greater, global;, cross cultural understanding. Moreover, often times those whom are bilingual are the ones who have more opportunities, especially in a college or educational setting, to study abroad.
In an increasingly globalized world people who speak more than one language, and whom can communicate with more than one country and culture, have an edge when applying for and receiving jobs in an incredibly competitive job market. International companies generally prefer bilingual people because they can represent the company nationally and internationally and can create new global clients. Beyond receiving jobs, it has been shown that those who speak more than one language actually earn more than monolingual people. One study shows that bilingual people on average earn a 2.87% higher wage per hour than those whom can only speak one language.
The benefits of bilingualism are clear and can not only improve someone’s personal life though knowledge and skill, but can bridge cultures and create a more unified world.