Being bilingual can take a lot of work. Years of practice is needed before one can be fluent in another language. Constantly learning new vocabulary and sentence structures in another language that you are not surrounded in can be an uphill battle. If you are educated in Singapore, you are most probably bilingual, being forced to learn your mother tongue on top of the English language. So what are the benefits of being bilingual? Is the effort made justified? This article seeks to find out.
1. Enhanced Memory
In a study published in December 2014, researchers were keen to find out how being bilingual had an effect on the memory of children. For a bilingual, there is a need to know when to use the right word, grammar rules and the shift in context and culture. Hence it is no surprise that what was found in the study was in fact benefits beyond their hypothesis- being bilingual helped not only in the storage of information but also in processing them. Higher bilingual proficiency is also associated with better verbal working memory performance.
2. Problem Solving Skills
In a Canadian study publish in January 2016 in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, researchers found that toddlers who were exposed to at least 2 languages on a regular basis were able to solve problems at a faster rate and with higher accuracy than their monolingual counterparts. The toddlers had to solve a problem, while ignoring certain information. This mirrors the ability to switch between different languages of the same words, being able to use the second language even though the first one is more accessible. This switching becomes more frequent as children grow older as their vocabulary size increases. This study showed that early bilingualism in children could be an effective method to build up problem solving skills- a skill that is highly regarded both in school and at the workplace.
3. Decision Making Skills
If you think that making decisions are based only on the evidence presented, think again. A study by the University of Chicago has found out that the decisions you make depends also in the language that it is presented in. As people think through a problem in their non-native tongue, they are more analytical and are more likely to take on favorable risks. These findings have an impact especially in a business setting or in personal finance as people who make decisions in another language might be less biased in their investment, retirement and savings decisions.
4. Job Opportunities
Being able to converse and write in another language can open up a whole world of job opportunities. It cannot be denied that the world has definitely become more globalized in the past century. Corporations have operations all around the world, making use of the comparative advantage that the different countries may bring. Being bilingual can help you in terms of bringing yourself to another job market or even becoming an asset to a company as you are able to translate certain information that may be crucial to their operations. In this aspect, a bilingual definitely has a much higher chance of getting higher as compared to someone who is only fluent in one language.
5. Entertainment Opportunities
Being able to enjoy entertainment like movies, television shows and music in another language can add value to your life. Not only does the larger variety of entertainment increases with your knowledge of another language, understanding the language allows you to immerse in the culture. In addition, you can travel to more countries without thinking about the potential language barrier- which is at times one of the most important criteria for a safe and enjoyable vacation.
Now that you know the benefits of being a bilingual, hopefully you will be able to appreciate and enjoy learning other languages more!