Most career counselors will tell you that being bilingual means you dramatically raise your chances for landing your dream job. Considering the professional benefits and potential for success, why aren’t we all rushing out to learn a second language? Again, career counselors say we should be. After all, being bilingual in today’s global marketplace means that you double the amount of work opportunities, while enriching your life in countless ways.
And being bilingual doesn’t just give you an edge in the work department. According to the New York Times, 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.” Beyond that, recent psychological studies have found that “bilingual children may enjoy certain cognitive benefits, such as improved executive function—which is critical for problem solving and other mentally demanding activities.”
If you didn’t know, now you do. Being bilingual is a really, really good thing.
It’s no secret that kids often learn faster and with more ease than adults. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re an adult who wishes to speak a second language. It’s never too late.
So if there is scientific proof, and expert advice to suggest that teaching your children (and yourself) more than one language helps to navigate the academic world and position them (and you) for much success later in life, what are we all waiting for?
Here are 8 reasons why dual language learners are better equipped to succeed in life.
You Will Give Your Brain A Workout
Your brain is a muscle, and to strengthen it you need to work that muscle regularly. Similar to how lifting weights can help build arm muscles, being bilingual can help you exercise your brain. 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.”
You Will Get REALLY Good At Multi-Tasking
The ability to do multiple things at one time, and to focus effectively on several tasks at a time will come in handy in basically all aspects of your life. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a teacher, a student or a parent, your brain needs to be able to multi-task. Being bilingual is like multi-tasking your linguistic skills; the better you are able to bounce between two languages (called code-switching), the more prepared your brain will be to bounce between other life skills and responsibilities as well.
You’ll Develop Great Social Skills
How can you connect with others if you cannot communicate with them? Yes, visual and physical communication can help, but at the end of the day, if you really want to talk to someone, you need to be able to speak his or her language. The more languages you speak, the more likely you will be to form a connection with others, and sometimes success boils down to relationships through social networking; it’s as simple as that.
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You’ll Gain A Vast Amount of Cultural Knowledge
To truly understand other cultures you can’t just read translated stories, you need to experience that culture in the native language of that country. Language is a huge part of cultural identity, and by learning a new language you will not only be better able to relate to the other people who speak that language, but you’ll also instantly open your eyes and mind to what it’s like to exist in their world.
Helps Fight Dementia
Dementia is a scary fate that affects about 44 million people worldwide, but there is hope. A recent study conducted at the University of Ghent in Belgium suggests “bilingualism can slow down cognitive aging and contribute to cognitive reserve.” Learning and mastering multiple languages appears to delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s by about four years. There is still a lot more research to be done, but being bilingual certainly helps with brain development in a way that may help protect you against dementia.
You’ll See The World
Traveling to a new place is always an exciting experience that can change your perspective on life. But if you visit another country and cling only to your native language, you’re only getting a small taste of what that destination has to offer. If you can immerse yourself in the local culture by speaking its native language, you’ll reach a whole new level of enrichment and you’ll feel a lot less like a tourist.
Improves Your Listening Skills
To be able to listen to a language that is not your native tongue, you really need to listen. Not simply hear the other person talking, but really LISTEN. You need to use your ears AND your brain to understand what they are saying and craft an appropriate response. If you are bilingual you’ll train your mind to not only hear, but also pay attention to people’s mannerisms and facial expressions, getting an entire picture of what a person is communicating.
You Will Be Prepared For Our Global Market
The professional world is a competitive and challenging world to navigate, and to succeed you need more than just experience. While education and skills are important, career counselors say that it’s also crucial you are well prepared to work in a global market, and in many situations, 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.”