By: Sunidhi Shende, Research Fellow @ Write & Co
Multilingualism, in the simplest of terms, is the ability to use two languages or more. Multilingualism can range from minimum to maximum proficiencies and can be classified into different types based on learning age and many other factors. While there exists controversial research about bilingualism and multilingualism in the early ages, the value of secondary language learning has become increasingly evident over the years.
- Cognitive development
According to study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cognitive gains due to bilingualism can be seen in children as young as 7-month-old infants. Processing representations from two languages results in a domain-general enhancement of the cognitive system well before the onset of speech. Data from 63 studies have shown that bilingualism and multilingualism resulted in increased attention control working memory, metalinguistic awareness, and abstract and symbolic representation skills.
- Protection against symptoms of onset of Dementia
Research found higher white matter integrity in adults who were lifelong bilinguals than those who were monolinguals, resulting in enhanced structural and functional connectivity.
- Protection from Brain injury
Researchers from the United Kingdom and India gathered data from 608 stroke patients in India, and found that bilinguals and multilinguals are almost twice as likely to have normal cognitive functions after a stroke as monolingual people.
- Sociocultural advantages
Language and culture are inextricably linked. It has been documented that bilinguals and multilinguals often have different mindsets while speaking different languages corresponding to the culture the language represents. This confirms that they have intercultural competence. They are more open and receptive to a foreign culture. This predisposition is of utmost importance in lessening xenophobia, racism, etc.
- Increased Career Opportunities
As many companies go global, connecting with consumers and clients, from a range of cultures and languages, knowing more than one language opens many career opportunities in foreign markets as well.
Although the research on the effects and importance of bilingualism and multilingualism still has a long way to go, especially in the field of health literacy, multilingualism has become an imperative ability proven to be beneficial to individuals not only on a neurological, or psychological, but also as social creatures.