The power of language

At one stage bilingualism was frowned upon and seen to be detrimental to children’s cognitive development, however studies have shown that knowing at least one other language is in fact advantageous for both children and adults.

Multilingual people tend to be better at decision making and multitasking. They are able to think more flexibly, have increased brain power and greater brain activity in certain regions. Being multilingual can also help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia by up to five years.

Aside from making your brain healthier, multilingualism gives you a different perspective of the world and allows you to see things in a new light. In learning a new language you also learn about a new culture which also broadens your general knowledge and opens up your horizons giving you a different outlook on various cultures and lifestyles.
In knowing another language you are able to express and understand concepts and phrases in a certain language which are often lost in translation or cannot be translated at all.

Knowing a second language can actually improve our mother tongue. If a second language is learnt in a school-like environment, the student learns about different types of verbs, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, sentence types, sentence structure etc. much of which is applicable to one’s mother tongue but is generally not taught. When a child is acquiring their first language and learning to speak they go through different phases and stages many of these grammatical features are just ‘picked up’ and over time become almost innate. Children are not sat down and taught these but rather learn through listening. These grammatical rules may make no sense to a monolingual person as they tend to just use what sounds right, a multilingual person may not know what sounds right in some instances and will have to learn and apply the grammatical rules in order to construct a cohesive and coherent sentence. In learning these rules for one language, the individual will also learn them for their own language which in turn may improve their mother tongue.

Travelling becomes easier when you are able to speak the native language and definitely more enjoyable because you are able to understand what is going on around you. You are also able to connect with people who you may not be able to communicate with in your mother tongue which when travelling can make you feel like less of an outsider.

Globalisation means that the knowledge of at least two languages is integral for certain jobs such as those involved in foreign trade, international business and national security. Having another language may assist you in getting a job and put you ahead of those who can only speak one language.

In short, if one is capable of learning another language, take the plunge, it’s well worth the time and effort and the rewards you reap will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Photo Courtesy of Paul wilskowolski