In this guest post, Jonty Yamisha from OptiLingo explores the many benefits of being multilingual. From being able to communicate with more people, to improving your empathy, this post makes for some insightful reading.
There are many reasons why people chose to learn another language. Sometimes they live in a country, surrounded by people who speak many languages. Other times, they may have a fascination with a country or culture and they want to learn more about it. For others, learning a language is a mandatory requirement for their school syllabus.
Regardless of why you are interested in becoming multilingual, there are plenty of reasons to learn at least two languages. From better fluency in your own native tongue, to improved critical thinking skills, here are some of the biggest benefits of speaking more than one language:
What Does It Mean to Be Multilingual?
There seems to be some confusion around what it means to be multilingual and how it differs from being bilingual. In short, the two terms can be used interchangeably. A multilingual person is a person who speaks multiple languages, while the term bilingual refers to a person who speaks two. This is not to be confused with a polyglot, or a person who speaks several (usually 5 or more) languages.
Improved Language Abilities
The most obvious benefit of being multilingual is that you will be able to command two languages, increasing the number of people with whom you can communicate. However, it improves much more than just your understanding of your target language. Once you speak more than language, you gain a better understanding of how languages work and what they’re capable of doing.
Here are a few more linguistical advantages from being multilingual:
- You can distinguish what someone means based on the way they said it.
- You learn more about your own language and its attributes.
- You pick up on the nuances of languages easier.
- You develop a better sense of how languages work, creating a greater awareness of how people communicate. This in turn, helps you to better communicate with others.
- You can recognize different ways of categorizing information and phrases.
One other benefit of learning multiple languages is that you’re able to learn more of them. The more languages you lean, the easier they become to pick up because you develop systems that help you recognize how languages function. As such, you’re less likely to fight some of the frustrations that come with learning along the way.
How Being Multilingual Benefits Your Brain
When you learn another language, it forces you to ignore various distractions. This has long-term benefits for your attention span. When you speak multiple languages, your brain processes information differently. This can help you balance different ideas at the same time. Here are a few more brain benefits to learning multiple languages:
- Knowing at least two languages helps you to be able to cope with distractions better. This can help stave off your mental decline as you age.
- Your memory improves because you’re actively recalling information. The process strengthens your neuropathways, making recall even faster.
- You become a better learner because success inspires future success, and there are few things more challenging than learning another language.
- Multilinguists have better cognitive flexibility than their monolingual counterparts because they use their brain more globally than their monolingual counterparts.
- Problem-solving, critical thinking, and higher-order thinking are all improved. As a result, you can come up with unique answers to problems faster than monolinguals.
Being Multilingual Can Improve Your Empathy
One of the most interesting benefits is your ability to better understand others, even if only those who are from the same culture as yourself.
- Speaking another language provides you with a new perspective on the world around you because you learn to see tings from multiple perspectives. As this makes you more flexible in your thinking, it also makes it easier to relate and understand others. This means you will have an easier time relating to people from different backgrounds.
- You develop a better appreciation for other cultures and ideas. This expands your horizons and lets you better grasp the cultural aspects that are not present in your society. As a result, you can be more understanding of difference than monolinguals
- Improved understanding of people from around the world. You will feel less afraid and isolated as you come to understand people who grew up in other countries.
- Knowing multiple languages is socially empowering as you expand the number of people and viewpoints you encounter.
Improved Employment Prospects
We live in a globalized world. This means that international markets are connected on a deeper level than ever before. Knowing multiple languages can make you an asset for companies with offices all over the world or companies that do business internationally.
Knowing multiple languages means that your employer can rely on you for a variety of tasks that they would have to hire multiple employees to carry out. For instance, if your boss needed a translator, they’d need to employ one on staff. But as a multilingual employee, your boss can rely on your language abilities to help secure deals and negotiate with clients.
There’s an element of respect that’s important here as well. If your company has workings with a business in a different country and you live there and speak the language, those partners will be more likely to trust and respect you. This can help make you an even more vital element to the company.
What’s more, people want to do business with individuals they can trust. And people are more likely to trust those who speak their language. That means that having a multilingual employee on staff opens the door to better, more powerful relationships with various business partners.
Entrepreneur and Linguist, Jonty Yamisha created OptiLingo after his efforts to protect his native language, Circassian, from extinction. Using scientifically proven strategies such as Spaced Repetition and Guided Immersion, OptilLingo has helped thousands finally achieve fluency.