Learning a new language is a big investment. It requires time, commitment and a great deal of patience. However, learning multiple languages is an investment that pays off. Knowing more than one language enhances worldview and perception, and studies consistently show that people who speak multiple languages not only enjoy higher cognitive abilities; on average, bilinguals also earn 5 to 20% more in wages and salaries than monolinguals do.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 20.7% of Americans speak a language other than English at home. Knowing multiple languages grants a person access to many diverse cultures, and learning to appreciate other cultures can be life changing. Charlemagne once said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
Here are just a few of the many benefits to learning multiple languages:
Open-mindedness and cultural appreciation
People who speak multiple languages claim their multilingualism has helped them to think about the world in different ways. When someone processes new languages and ways of thinking, they are more open-minded. Knowing another language also opens an individual up to that culture, and they can enjoy that culture’s books, music and film. One trilingual said, “Life never becomes boring, because there is more than just one language available.” As someone learns multiple languages, they can travel further, immerse themselves in local cultures, and intimately connect with global communities.
Higher cognitive development and abilities
Different languages operate using unique syntaxes and logical forms. Grammatical structure varies widely across different languages, and being able to understand complex rules sharpens one’s cognitive skills. Speaking multiple languages also improves cognitive skills unrelated to linguistics, such as problem solving, creativity and memory. The cognitive benefits of learning a second language are even greater for young children. Research shows that bilingual children perform higher in basic cognitive skills in elementary school, and score higher on SATs as compared to their monolingual peers.
Ability to learn other languages easily
A study at the University of Haifa reported that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language, because fluency in two languages boosts the skills needed to learn a third language. Prof. Abu-Rabia explained, “[Languages] reinforce one another, and provide tools to strengthen phonologic, morphologic and syntactic skills.” The study also revealed that in an English proficiency test, bilingual students who spoke Russian and Hebrew scored 13-35% higher than students who knew only Hebrew. Learning a third language also improves one’s understanding and skills in previously learned languages.
Job marketability in globalizing business
The world is globalizing more each day, and corporations are seeking tomorrow’s leaders. One out of three corporations in the U.S. are owned or based overseas. Employers value fluent multilingual employees, because they can communicate with overseas subsidiaries and partners. A University of Guelph study showed that even if employees do not speak their second language at work, on average they still earn more than monolinguals do. Prof. Christofides stated, “Second-language skills may indicate those individuals are stronger in unmeasured labor market characteristics such as ability, cognition, perseverance and quality education.”
Learning multiple languages is extremely challenging, but the benefits and rewards that follow are life-long. After mastering a new language, it is important to continue exercising and speaking the language daily, as the benefits of multilingualism can fade away without diligent practice.
Access 2 Interpreters understands the difficulty of learning a new language, and provides top-notch interpretation and translation services to lower language barriers.