Knowing more than one language benefits your health and the longer you have spoken two languages the better!
Studies show that bilinguals are more adept at solving certain types of mental puzzles and it is now believed the facility improves your cognitive skills and may even protect against dementia in old age.
Bilinguals are smarter
We now know that being bilingual not only allows you to communicate with more people and improve your job prospects; it can also make you smarter.
It seems that conflict in the brain caused by knowing two languages causes it to resolve the obstruction, improving cognitive skills by giving the brain a workout.
The ability to speak more than one language helps your processes of perception; memory; judgement and reasoning. And those with Alzheimer’s who are bilingual are said to retain more brain function compared to those who are not.
Bilingualism long thought to be an intelligence hindrance
Though some have always believed bilingual is best we’re now a world away from the old-fashioned view that speaking two languages, especially from a young age, hinders intelligence and should be discouraged.
A range of studies now show that being bilingual helps ignore distractions and stay focussed, as well as store information.
Though on the other hand some suggest that children who speak two languages have a smaller vocabulary in each language spoken than monolingual children, yet combine the two languages together and their vocabulary as a whole will probably be broader.
Britain becoming ever more monolingual
The British are not perceived to be very dedicated to the learning of foreign languages. As discussed in the Economist: ‘‘If an Englishman wants to speak a foreign language, runs the old joke, he can always go abroad and speak English.’’
The number of children in schools learning languages is decreasing and it would seem to be that the country has adopted an attitude which questions the need to learn languages with English’s ever increasing dominance globally.
This week the House of Lords have called for compulsory language-learning in primary and secondary schools.
It is even suggested that language figures for schools are actually much bleaker than reported, that children who have been brought up bilingual or have a native language other than English may counter negative statistics. These children provide good results for schools where language learning my actually be insignificant.
The Lords committee also highlighted how students in France, Germany and Spain were three times as likely as those in Britain to take part in the Erasmus programme, where students can study or work abroad as part of their degree.
Monoglot attitudes in the UK have put languages to the back of the education agenda and prevented students studying abroad. Global Lingo’s Leeds office however has three past Erasmus participants and one current one all the way from Italy!
But don’t fret if you’re not bilingual! There is evidence that the benefits can apply even when learning a second language later in life. Therefore, learning languages offers a whole heap of benefits to be taken advantage of at any age.