¿Habla Español? The benefits of being bilingual

With a bilingual English-Spanish speaking father, and a set of grandparents who can impressively speak fluent Croatian, Spanish and Italian, I can certainly appreciate the benefits of speaking more than one language. Growing up hearing my father speak to his relatives on the phone, long holidays to Argentina throughout my childhood, not to mention three years of study at university, has equipped me with a good grasp of Spanish and in turn (I hope!) has helped me to develop a number of skills, the most obvious being communication, improved memory and the ability to multi task.

In fact, you may be interested to know that today more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. So why does there seem to be an aversion to learning languages in this country, with most Brits happy to just ‘get by’ on a few stock French phrases on their trip to the South of France? ‘Je ne comprends pas’ anyone? Let’s take a look at the educational benefits to speaking more than one language…

Intellectual growth: Individuals who are bilingual/multilingual generally perform better in exams and many believe they fare better at IQ tests. Being fluent in two or more languages enhances a person’s mental development and awareness, they have cognitive flexibility and are able to scrutinise various arguments to derive a suitable conclusion.

Picking up another language is easier: Ever wondered how your bilingual peers make learning a third, fourth or even a fifth language seem like a breeze? This is because studies show that different languages reinforce one another, and provide tools to ‘strengthen phonologic, morphologic and syntactic skills.’ Applying language skills from one language to another is a critical cognitive function that makes it easier for an individual to learn successfully.

Greater self esteem and confidence: Confident students believe in their abilities and feel hopeful they can achieve their goals. They are also able to comfortably interact with other people to form relationships and are more willing to try new things. Generally speaking, bilinguals are able to express emotion better and adapt more easily to change than monolinguals.

Cultural advantage: Living in a multicultural UK, it is incredibly important young people develop greater tolerance and are open-minded about other cultures. Bilingualism offers greater exposure to different cultures and an insight into another country’s history, folk stories, music and literature.
Employability: With recent government figures stating that one in five 16-25 year olds are not able to find work in the UK, a broad range of skills can increase chances of finding a job at the end of formal education.An additional language is not only beneficial in jobs that require extensive travel and communication with other offices in other countries, but in the business world in general; through their language skills, bilinguals and multilinguals are able to bring in new clientele from around the world.

For more information on the benefits of being bilingual, check out this link to Voxy’s infographic on the topic which can also be used an engaging learning tool in the classroom.

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