Learning two languages instead of just one has obvious practical advantages in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, researchers have begun to show that the benefits of being bilingual are even more fundamental than conversing with a broader range of people. It turns out that being bilingual makes you smarter. It can profoundly affect your brain, improving non-linguistic cognitive skills and even protecting against dementia as you age.
Effects of bilingualism on the brain
Researchers, educators, and policymakers have long viewed a second language as a cognitive disorder that impedes a child’s academic and intellectual development (Bhattacharjee, 2012). There is some logic behind the interference: there is ample evidence that in the brain of a bilingual person, both linguistic systems are active, even when only one language is used, creating situations where one system interferes with the other. However, Lanvers et al. (2019) find this disorder is less of a handicap and more of a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflicts and gives the mind a workout that strengthens cognitive muscles.
Woumans and Duyck (2015) accumulated evidence that suggests that the bilingual experience enhances what is known as the brain’s executive function: a command system that controls the attentional processes we use to plan, problem-solve, and perform other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, shifting attention from one thing to another at will, and retaining information, such as memorizing a sequence of directions while driving.
Comparison of bilinguals and monolinguals
The main difference between bilinguals and monolinguals is perhaps more fundamental regarding the ability to monitor the environment. Bilingual people often have to change their language: they can speak one language with their father and another with their mother. It requires tracking changes around them, like we monitor our surroundings while driving. The effects of bilingualism also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study, Woumans and Duyck (2015), found that people with higher levels of bilingualism, as measured by a comparative assessment of proficiency in each language, were more resilient than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of the disease.
No one has ever doubted the power of language. But who would have thought that the words we hear and the sentences we speak leave such a deep impression? And when you have two languages to fall back on, you can impress a lot more people with your smartness. To unlock your hidden potential, it is imperative that you utilize the most effective resources. We have identified a wealth of books that you can access from the comfort of your home to gain proficiency in your secondary language. With stories such as The Adventures of Pili, the books are bound to keep you engaged and instill a love for reading and learning a new language.
Bhattacharjee, Y. (2012). Why bilinguals are smarter. The New York Times, 17(03), 201-220.
Lanvers, U., Hultgren, K., & Gayton, A. M. (2019). ‘People can be smarter with two languages’: changing anglophone students’ attitudes to language learning through teaching linguistics. The Language Learning Journal, 47(1), 88-104.
Woumans, E., & Duyck, W. (2015). The bilingual advantage debate: Moving toward different methods for verifying its existence. Cortex, 73, 356-357.