Knowing more than one language can make certain things easier, like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual, or multilingual, brain?
Educator Mia Nacamulli details in her TED Talk the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex, and actively engaged. So yes, there are lots of advantages to having a bilingual brain and learning a new language!
Language Learning Benefits
While being bilingual can help in travel and entertainment purposes of your life, such as watching movies, it’s also a great way to connect with people in your community who also speak that language. Additionally, knowing two or more languages means that your brain may actually look and work differently than those of your monolingual friends, being more healthy and actively engaged.
Language ability is typically measured in two active parts, speaking and writing, and two passive parts, listening and reading.
As discussed in the video, most bilinguals around the world know and use their languages in varying proportions. Depending on their situation and how they acquired each language, they can be classified into three general types:
- A compound bilingual develops two linguistic codes simultaneously, learning both English and Spanish, for example, as they begin to process the world around them.
- A coordinate bilingual, works with two sets of concepts, learning English in school, while continuing to speak their native language at home and with friends.
- A subordinate bilingual learns a secondary language by filtering it through their primary language.
Language Learning Studies
Recent advances in brain imaging technology have given neurolinguists a glimpse into how specific aspects of language learning affect the bilingual brain. It’s well known that the brain’s left hemisphere is more dominant and analytical in logical processes, while the right hemisphere is more active in emotional and social ones. The fact that language involves both types of functions while lateralization develops gradually with age, has lead to the critical period hypothesis.
According to this theory, children learn languages more easily because the plasticity of their developing brains lets them use both hemispheres in language acquisition, while in most adults, language is lateralized to one hemisphere, usually the left. If this is true, learning a language in childhood may give you a more holistic grasp of its social and emotional contexts.
Conversely, recent research showed that people who learned a second language in adulthood exhibit less emotional bias and a more rational approach when confronting problems in the second language than in their native one. This could be one of the benefits of a bilingual brain.
But regardless of what age you are when you acquire additional languages, the benefits of a bilingual brain and being multilingual gives your brain some remarkable advantages. Some of these are even visible, such as higher density of the grey matter that contains most of your brain’s neurons and synapses, and more activity in certain regions when engaging a second language. The heightened workout a bilingual brain receives throughout its life can also help delay the onset of diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia by as much as five years.
Our mission is to empower people to see the world from a different perspective in order to enrich their lives, appreciate and sympathize with other cultures, and further the benefits of diversity in the world. We accomplish this through effective language training, challenging our students to think in different ways, and facilitating cross-cultural interaction.
By guiding you in learning another language and becoming bilingual, or even multilingual, you can stay connected with people around the world, understand and appreciate other cultures, and benefit from a healthy, actively engaged brain in the process!
So, speaking of the benefits of a bilingual brain, while bilingualism may not necessarily make you smarter, it does make your brain more healthy, complex and actively engaged, and even if you didn’t have the good fortune of learning a second language as a child, it’s never too late to do yourself a favor and make the linguistic leap from, “Hello,” to, “Hola,” “Bonjour” or “你好’s” . When it comes to our brains a little exercise can go a long way.
Get in touch with us today to start your language learning journey!
Watch the Ted Talk with Mia Nacamulli below!