Polyglot Princess: 8 Benefits of Learning a Second Language

Speaking more than one language has several perks, both in the practical sense and in terms of keeping your brain healthy from infancy to old age. And while it might take some effort, being bilingual is worth the work. Here are 8 benefits of learning a second language.

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If you don’t currently speak more than one language, you might want to consider brushing up on your high school Spanish, because being bilingual has several perks. Of course there are the practical uses when it comes to your career, your relationships and your ability to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures. But it’s more than that. As the New York Times reports, recent studies have found that “being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.”

These days it is quite common for a child to learn more than one language at a really young age. Whether the child grows up in a bilingual home or they learn a second language at school, the use of more than one language, even form infancy, has many positive effects on development and intelligence throughout life. And while it might be easier for kids to learn to juggle more than one language, that doesn’t mean adults can’t learn a new language as well. Here are 8 benefits of learning a second language, so you can start embracing the wonder of multilingualism now.

1. You will strengthen your brain

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Researchers at University College London found that “learning other languages altered grey matter—the area of the brain which processes information—in the same way exercise builds muscles.” Think about it, the brain is a muscle, so just as lifting weights can help strengthen your biceps, learning a new language can help strengthen your brain.

2. You’ll be better able to connect with others

It’s hard to connect with others if you cannot communicate with them. And while hand gestures and hugs go a long way, the spoken word is a crucial part of development relationships and meeting new people. Better communication is one of the key benefits of learning a second language.

3. Multi-tasking will become second nature to you

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Who wouldn’t benefit from the ability to multi-task? Sure, it would be nice to tackle one task at a time but in the real world, we are all constantly working on multiple chores at any given moment, and we need to be able to juggle all those jobs with ease. Being bilingual is like multi-tasking your language skills; you need to be able to speak in more than one language depending on who you are speaking to, you often need to listen in one language and then translate into another, and you need to use various parts of your brain at once to master all those linguistic skills.

4. You will become more open-minded

It’s one thing to read about other cultures and traditions; it’s another to truly understand what it is all about by learning to communicate in that culture’s native tongue. Dr. Karen Risager, Professor in Cultural Encounters at the Department of Language and Culture at the Roskilde University in Denmark, explains in her book Language and Culture: Global Flows and Local Complexity, “language development and socialization contribute to the development of cultural identities and cultural models of the world.” By learning a new language you will not only be better able to relate to its people, but you’ll also instantly open your eyes and your mind to what it is like to exist in their world.

5. You will protect your brain against dementia later in life

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According to a 2013 study conducted in India to investigate the association between bilingualism and the development of dementia, researchers found that “bilingual patients developed dementia 4.5 years later than the monolingual ones. A significant difference in age at onset was found across Alzheimer disease dementia as well as fronto-temporal dementia and vascular dementia.”  

6. Your travel experience will improve

Sure, you can travel to pretty much any country around the world and navigate using nothing but English, sign language, hand gestures and a translation book, but isn’t it more fun to communicate with locals in there own language? With multilingualism, you’ll not only have more fun and be better able to navigate your trip, but you’ll also learn about the local favorites from the locals themselves.

7. You will improve your listening skills

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While you can listen to people talking in your native tongue without much effort, to hear what someone says in another language, and actually understand them, you really need to listen. You need to pay attention, focus on their words, their inflection and their facial expressions, and you need to think about how to respond. All these skills will improve your listening skills regardless of what language you are speaking, and everyone can benefit from being a better listener.

8. You’ll be better equipped to land a good job in a global market

Let’s be real, the world is a big place, and most careers are becoming increasingly global, which means if you want to keep up you need to talk the talk. Speaking more than one language will make you an ideal candidate for your dream job. According to Graciela Kenig, author of Best Careers for Bilingual Latinos, “for job seekers eager to separate themselves from the crowd of candidates in a specific field, picking up a second (or third) language can be just the thing to propel you to the front of the pack.”

The post Multilingual princess: 8 benefits of learning a second language appeared first on Mundo Hispanico

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