Joan of Arc Academy / Academie Jeanne d'Arc

Importance Of Bilingualism

Speaking both French and English is especially beneficial for those living in Canada’s capital. Bilingualism is essential for most careers in government, travel, or corporate affairs. The development of strong language skills at a young age provides an invaluable asset throughout a child’s life.

Bilingualism Makes You Smarter

Evidently, bilingualism provides the ability to converse with more people. However, studies show it also makes you smarter. In recent years, scientists have seen its profound effect on one’s brain, improving cognitive skills and protecting against dementia in old age.

The following excerpt from the New York Times article “Why Bilinguals Are Smarter,” explains how the bilingual brain functions:

“The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.”

Difference between Bilinguals and Monolinguals

Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain, found that the strong distinction between monolinguals and bilinguals is their sharp ability to observe their environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Mr. Costa. Being able to monitor changes around you creates a heightened sense of awareness.

In a study comparing how Italian monolinguals and German-Italian bilinguals monitor tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual participants not only performed better, but they also did so effortlessly. The ability of the bilingual to engage their brains with less effort  opens their awareness to more experiences and puts less stress on the organ over time.

Bilingualism Contributes to Long-Term Health

The following excerpt from the New York Times article “Why Bilinguals Are Smarter,” explains how bilingualism contributes to long-term health:

“Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.”

Many people become bilingual to help broaden their career opportunities. Who knew speaking two languages could also help improve overall health? The power of the words we speak provides strength in the lives we live.