There are many benefits to speaking more than one language. You are able to communicate with more people, learn about other cultures, have more work opportunities, and stay mentally strong!
Bilingual brains actually look different from monolingual brains. Bilingual, or multilingual, brains have more gray matter, which contains most of your brain’s neurons and synapses. Additionally, bilingual brains have more activity in certain regions of the brain when speaking a second language. This “workout” that the brain receives while speaking a second language can even delay the onset of Alzheimer and dementia by as much as five years. Thus, bilingual brains actually age more slowly and speaking more than one language can help you live a longer and more satisfying life.
There have also been studies that show the effort and attention needed to speak a second language strengthens the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which plays a lot of roles in executive functioning. Some of these executive functions include problem solving, switching between tasks, and focusing while filtering out irrelevant information. So, speaking a second language can help with your problem-solving skills. In fact, people who learn a second language in adulthood actually exhibit less emotional bias and a more rational approach when confronting problems in their second language than their native one. And people who learn a second language in their childhood develop stronger critical thinking skills than those who do not.
While today research shows it is an advantage to speak more than one language, before the 1960s bilingualism was actually considered a handicap. People believed learning more than one language actually slowed a child’s development and forced them to spend too much energy distinguishing between languages. Today it is evident that this is not the case and it is clearly an advantage to speak more than one language for communication skills and improved executive function.
Even though speaking two or more languages does not necessarily make you smarter, it does make your brain more healthy, complex, and actively engaged. While the majority of our Global Talent Link community is bilingual or multilingual, for those who are not it is never too late to learn a new language!