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The Benefits Of Bilingualism

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Language is a very important aspect of our lives. We use it to be able to converse with other individuals for enjoyment, convey your message to others and to learn new information. In current times, it is very common for people to be bilingual or even multilingual due to learning them from their parents or even going beyond and learning languages on your own. There are also many people who have misconceptions that being a bilingual individual can actually be harmful. There are also another set of people that see bilingualism as a threat and do not like for people to speak a language that is not the dominant one. However, there are many benefits of knowing more than one language. There are not only the simple benefits of enjoying others cultures, such as being able to travel, read and watch foreign movies, but there are also many health benefits that stem from being bilingual. Some of these benefits include the delay of dementia, a faster recovery from a stroke and workplace advantages.

One benefit of being bilingual is having an advantage in the workplace. Many employers hire bilingual individuals because they need employees who can cater to their customers. For example, if a workplace is in a predominantly Spanish speaking neighborhood, then it is very likely that there will be customers who will not be able to speak English because they are only monolingual in Spanish. You may be likely to be paid more because you have a skill that others might not have. It is important to have staff that will be able to effectively communicate with the customers. The employer will also save money by hiring someone who is bilingual, rather than paying two monolingual employees where one will speak English and the other will speak Spanish. Hiring a bilingual individual means that employer and company will only have to pay one person. This means that knowing more than one language is gives an advantage over the monolingual people who have also applied for the same job. It can also be helpful to be bilingual in the workplace because many companies have opportunities to take their product to international offices and they will need people who can speak the language. For example, if there arrives an opportunity to expand the company to Honduras, the employers would most likely send the employee that will be able to communicate and sell their product. But if there are only two employees in the office and one is bilingual in Spanish and English, while the other is monolingual in English, it would be most likely guaranteed for the bilingual employee to be picked simply because the employee speaks the language. Bilingualism gives an advantage over monolinguals because some jobs state that they are looking for someone who is bilingual. This means that a monolingual never even has the opportunity to be able to able for that job, and even if they bypass that, they may not even be considered because they do not meet the requirement. Another benefit of being bilingual kin the workplace is you may be able to search for jobs in another country. If you are looking to move or find new job opportunities, you may be able to find what you are looking for.

Recent studies propose that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia by 4-4.6 years (Bialystok, Craik & Freedman, 2007, Craik, Bialystok & Freedman, 2010, Alladi et al., 2013. Woumans et al., 2015). In Canada, Bialystok, Craik and Freedman (2007) found a 4.1–year delay of dementia onset in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. Bak and Alladi (2016) emphasize the importance of cross-cultural research in this field, as attitudes towards bilingualism can significantly influence people’s lives and physicians’ diagnoses of dementia. A recent study in India included illiterates and was representative of a “truly bilingual environment” (Alladi et al., 2013). It found a 4½-year delay in bilinguals compared to monolinguals in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia (Alladi et al., 2013). As each type of dementia affects the brain and cognition in unique ways, future research should further investigate potential differential effects of bilingualism. The results were also independent of sex, occupation and education. As experiments with random design are impossible in this field, it is crucial to control for extraneous variables like these. There is also indirect support for the hypothesis. For example, a study found an interaction between bilingualism and age of diagnosis of single-domain mild cognitive impairment (likely to develop into dementia) but not multi-domain mild cognitive impairment (not likely to develop into dementia) (Ossher, Bialystok, Craik, Murphy & Troyer, 2013). Together, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that bilingualism protects against the onset of dementia.

Chertkow and colleagues (2010) further report benefits for multilinguals independent of immigrant status. Perhaps more languages increase cognitive reserve, building stronger protection against dementia. Furthermore, Zahodne and colleagues (2014) adopted a different design, analysing data from a longitudinal study with 1067 Hispanic participants, including 282 who developed dementia. They found no association between bilingualism and dementia or rates of cognitive decline. However, incidence of mild cognitive impairment was lower in bilinguals than monolinguals providing some, albeit weak, evidence that bilingualism protects against dementia. In this study, many of the bilinguals came from disadvantaged minority groups, so negative effects of low socioeconomic status may have outweighed benefits of bilingualism. Future research should continue to identify conditions in which associations between bilingualism and dementia onset are, and are not, found.

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A limited number of studies have investigated ongoing benefits of bilingualism after dementia onset. For example, Bialystok, Craik and Freedman (2007) found that 4 years after dementia diagnosis, bilinguals and monolinguals had similar decline in Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) Scores. This suggests no difference in dementia progression after diagnosis. Furthermore, Woumans and colleagues (2015) found an onset delay of 4.6 years in bilinguals compared to monolinguals and a 4.8-year delay in formal diagnosis. At first glance, this could suggest it takes 0.2 years longer for symptoms to qualify for diagnosis in bilinguals compared to monolinguals. However, although bilinguals were older than monolinguals at the time of formal diagnosis, they also exhibited significantly greater cognitive deficits. Therefore, the difference of 0.2 years between onset and diagnosis could reflect that bilinguals are more reluctant to go for assessment. Longitudinal analysis is necessary to investigate whether bilingualism continues to protect cognitive function throughout the course of dementia.

Evidence is emerging from neuroimaging studies. For example, Kowoll and colleagues (2016) found that in the early stages of AD, bilinguals scored the same as monolinguals on the MMSE despite having greater glucose uptake impairment in the cerebellum, frontotemporal and parietal brain regions. The authors suggest that bilingualism allows people to compensate for more severe cerebral changes. However, these results cannot be confidently attributed to bilingualism, as the bilinguals in this study had significantly more years of education than the monolinguals. Similarly, Schweizer, and colleagues (2012) found that bilinguals with AD had greater brain atrophy than monolinguals in brain areas involved in AD diagnosis, despite similar performance on cognitive tests. This result suggests greater amounts of neuropathology is present in the bilingual brain before the of dementia symptoms manifest. However, bilinguals had significantly higher occupational status than monolinguals, which could also account for the results. Future research should continue to investigate structural and metabolic brain differences between monolinguals and bilinguals and could include brain imaging during active tasks, to explore how bilinguals compensate for greater cerebral changes.

Taking into consideration the arguments against bilingualism, especially in children, is also important to examine the argument put forth by the supporters of monolingualism that children cannot differentiate between their two languages, which leads to confusion. Code mixing, as it is called when a child switches back and forth between languages throughout a conversation, is an often occurrence, even among adults. Children, though, are seen as confused when they do it. It has been shown that children, very early on, are able to differentiate between their two languages. The code-mixing is just a way that they are able to communicate better. It shows more cognitive flexibility and agility, not just with language, but with abstract concepts as well (Genesee et al. 1995).

Bialystock (1997) found evidence that bilinguals have a definite advantage over monolinguals in their cognitive functioning. In the study, children (both bilinguals and monolinguals) were shown two pictures and then a word on a card. The card was first put under the picture it described. The child was asked what the card said. Then, two toy bunnies were introduced. They were made to ‘scuffle’ by the experimenters, and in the process, the card was moved under the other picture. The child was then asked again what the card said. Finally, the experimenter told the child to tidy up the mess created by the bunnies (thereby moving the card back to its original position under the right card) and asked what the card said again. The test was meant to measure cognitive consistency with regards to the word on the card. It was found that bilinguals performed better than monolinguals, giving the right word more than monolinguals. The bilingual children performed so well, that the younger bilinguals scored better than older monolinguals, even though the scores did increase with age across the board.

In yet another study, a widely used standardized test was shown to underestimate the development of bilingual children. Gonzalez (1995) found that those children in fact performed above the levels they were assessed at. She subjected 30 6- and 7-year-old Hispanic bilingual children of low socioeconomic status to evaluation of their scores on the IDEA Oral Language Proficiency test, scores in the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (TONI), and parental evaluations. Gonzalez findings on verbal and nonverbal representational systems echoed those of Genesee et al, (1995). She also concludes that bilingualism has a definitive positive impact on cognitive development.

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The Benefits Of Bilingualism. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“The Benefits Of Bilingualism.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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