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8 Benefits of learning a second language

  1. Boosts brain power

Some of the cognitive advantages of learning a second language may have to do with the fact that the brain of bilingual and multilingual children develops more densely, as found by researchers analyzing the brain densities of bilingual people. In a study conducted using brain imaging, Andrea Mechelli of London’s Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience and her colleagues found that bilingual speakers had denser gray matter compared to monolingual study participants.

  1. Better problem-solving and other cognitive abilities

Children that speak more than one language learn to negotiate meaning as a crucial part of communicating in more than one language system. This also helps them with problem-solving tasks, and gives children the ability to seek different approaches to solve a problem. 

  1. Children develop an “ear” for languages

Exposing children to a foreign or second language at an early age helps them develop an “ear” for the language and achieve better pronunciation and fluency later in life. This is due to the fact that, when learning a foreign language, children must distinguish meaning from very discrete sounds. 

  1. Higher academic achievement and test scores

Studies have shown that learning a foreign language early in life improves cognitive abilities and influences achievement in other areas, resulting in higher test scores in reading and math. Studies have found that students that speak more than one language score higher on standardized college admission exams than monolingual students. 

  1. Gives students a head start in language requirements for college

Children that learn a language at an early age have a huge head start both cognitively and linguistically, and it will help them “breeze” through foreign language classes in high school and college, giving them a chance of truly becoming bilingual.

  1. Increased Empathy

A study from the University of Chicago found that children that speak more than one language are better at “putting themselves in other people’s shoes” and understanding different perspectives. To speak another language requires not only language skills, but also the ability to understand the other speaker’s perspective.

  1. Increased children’s understanding of his or her native language

Many studies suggest that second language study helps enhance English language skills. Learning another language helps students learn about how language works in general and become more aware of their own first language (grammar, conjugations, sentence structures, etc.) Studies have found that bilingual children understand better than monolingual students the visual representation of print materials. 

  1. Better career opportunities

In today’s global world, the ability to communicate in more than one language is increasingly becoming an essential skill. When applying for a job, bilingual candidates have an edge to differentiate themselves from other candidates, and are able to showcase themselves as a valuable potential employees bringing skills that may be invaluable for employers. As James Doherty with WinterWyman Contract Staffing puts it: “If you are in a pool with 10 other corporate recruiters and your collective skills are similar, knowing a foreign language can be the unique talent that gets you that coveted first interview.”

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By Vanessa Simpson, M.Ed.