To Be Bilingual; Benefits of Knowing Two Languages



By Pamela Mejia de Rodriguez
Reposted with permission from Colorado Virtual Library

In this country that I’m living now or being more specific, the state that I am now living, Colorado, I have developed a new hobby thanks to my husband. I am talking about skiing! Even though I have only gone skiing two times, I already consider myself a “ski addict.”

The second time we went to ski, I saw a couple with their two-year-old child. The husband was American and the wife was Argentinian. I noticed that the mom was talking to her child in Spanish and the Dad in English. It was marvelous to see how the kid was making the switch and answering them both in every language.

At just two years old, this kid was able to identify the language and able to quickly answer adequately. This was a living proof of the famous “brain plasticity” that we have heard so much about.

New articles on the neuroscience field (the science that studies the brain), show us that “a newborn baby is able to discriminate between sounds of any language and learn it. When he is a year old, however, small monolinguals lose this ability and specialize only in the sounds of their native language. However, those who are raised as bilingual, often because their father and mother are of different origins and speak to them in their respective languages since birth, still show a cerebral response to sounds of these languages.

To me, this was not a surprise. I have had kids in my past classrooms that their parents are Italians/French/Swedish/Japanese. They talk to their child in their native language and their child responds to them. Living in a Spanish-speaking county, they naturally learn the language in order to communicate with community and friends. And at the same time, receive a formal education in English school where classes are in English.

With all this going on, kids were able to make the switch of language, depending on who they were talking to. Bilinguals have a different brain structure, and they have a better capacity when it comes to concentration. Being bilingual helps you to make faster and more accurate decisions.

And there is a reason for these. When little, bilinguals need to separate both languages to avoid any interference when talking or listening. This process uses the same nerve cells that the brain uses to make quick decisions.

Benefits of bilingual education
Communication
• Ability to communicate with more people (family or work)
• Read and write in two language

Cognitive
• More creative
• Greater capacity to concentrate
• Bette attention spam, memory, and problem solving skills
• Greater resilience against cognitive deterioration caused by age or brain injury.

Socio-emotional
• Ability to adapt to different situations
• They appreciate multiculturalism.
• Greater ability to put oneself in the position of other people (tolerance and respect for human beings)
• Greater security (self-esteem)
• Greater resilience to environmental changes

Economic
• Advantage to get a job and receive more economic remuneration.

Being bilingual has its perks; don’t limit your child with only one language. Even if you live in a country where the native language is English, always keep the family native language present, not only for customs and cultural pride, but more for all the advantages that your child can have with the domain of both languages.

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Even if you do not live in or did not grow up in a bilingual household, it’s never too late to learn a second language. Check out GoWYLD.net’s language learning resources, including the self-paced courses in Mango Languages. If English is your second language, Mango has courses for those learning English, as well, and Learning Express Library has a learning center for Spanish speakers. All these resources are free to Wyoming residents with a library card and PIN. If you need help logging in, contact your local library.

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