The Benefits of Bilingualism

In the course of their normal schooling, many youngsters do not fully get to grips with a foreign language. To address this issue, parents can arrange private tutors for their children to help them pick up new languages, such as French, German and Spanish.

Many mums and dads believe that having these additional skills will benefit their children when they eventually leave education and enter the workplace. Meanwhile, there may be other benefits associated with this learning too.

One woman who is a staunch advocate of foreign language teaching is Anne Merritt. Writing in the Daily Telegraph recently, the lecturer, who is currently based in South Korea, suggested that being bilingual can make people smarter, more decisive and better at English.

She stated: “Physiological studies have found that speaking two or more languages is a great asset to the cognitive process. The brains of bilingual people operate differently than single language speakers, and these differences offer several mental benefits.”

The expert added: “Speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of your brain by challenging it to recognise, negotiate meaning, and communicate in different language systems. This skill boosts your ability to negotiate meaning in other problem-solving tasks as well.”

Ms Merritt also suggested that multilingual individuals, especially children, are skilled at switching between two systems of speech and this ‘juggling’ can make them effective multi-taskers.

In the long term, it could even help to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The specialist drew attention to studies that have suggested the mean age for the first signs of dementia among monolingual adults is 71.4, while for adults who speak two or more languages, this rises to 75.5.

Ms Merritt went on to claim that foreign language learning can boost memory power. About this, she stated: “Educators often liken the brain to a muscle, because it functions better with exercise. Learning a language involves memorising rules and vocabulary, which helps strengthen that mental ‘muscle’. This exercise improves overall memory, which means that multiple language speakers are better at remembering lists or sequences.”

Furthermore, bilingual and multilingual people tend to be better at observing their surroundings, she suggested, stating: “They are more adept at focusing on relevant information and editing out the irrelevant. They’re also better at spotting misleading information. Is it any surprise that Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are skilled polyglots?”

Talking about the impact learning a foreign language can have on people’s English skills, Ms Merritt noted that it makes people more aware of language, its structures and how it can be manipulated. These abilities help to make individuals more effective communicators and sharper writers.

She even suggested that bilingual people tend to make more rational decisions. On this subject, she remarked: “Bilinguals are more confident with their choices after thinking it over in the second language and seeing whether their initial conclusions still stand up.”

These days, it is easy for parents to arrange private tuition to help enhance their children’s language skills. Many mums and dads now head online to see what is available.

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