The Brain Benefits of Being Bilingual
Speaking two languages results in many advantages. For instance, bilingualism offers greater opportunities to explore other cultures, improves bilingual speakers’ ability to navigate an increasingly diverse world, and provides a competitive advantage in the job market. Here are a few more brain-related benefits of bilingualism.
Improved Ability to Concentrate: According to brain imaging, when bilinguals are engaging with language, their brains are constantly suppressing the words and grammar from the language they are not using. This requires a skill known as inhibition — or the blocking out of stimuli that can distract from the task at hand. The development of this skill results in a greater ability to concentrate on non-linguistic tasks as well. This improved concentration is especially noticeable in middle aged and older bilinguals when compared to their monolingual counterparts (Hewings-Martin, 2017).
Protection Against Brain-Related Injuries: Bilinguals, according to a recent study, cognitively recover faster from brain-related injuries than monolinguals and are twice as likely to have normal brain function after a stroke (Dockrill, 2015).
Slows Down Cognitive Aging: Studies have shown that even when suffering from the same disease pathology, bilinguals do not show symptoms of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s until the disease has progressed four to five years more than when their monolingual counterparts first show symptoms. This is thought to be because bilinguals have greater cognitive reserve, so when one part of the brain is damaged, the brain compensates (Hewings-Martin, 2017).