BENEFITS OF BILINGUALISMApril 12.2013  Understanding the science behind the benefits of learning new languages                         









Why learn a language?

Language learning is essential to human communication and success. In the globally expanding world, being able to speak different languages is becoming more and more essential to

leading a successful and satisfactory career.


As a result, children are being taught languages starting in kindergarten, allowing them to be able to thrive in the global world. Languages being taught within schools today reflect the globally expanding world, showing Spanish, Chinese,

German, French, Russian, and Italian as the languages most commonly taught.


This correlates to jobs that require these languages to being the top paying or most wanted. In a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, engineers who were learning these languages were shown to be paid significantly better wages (Stackhouse). This proves that languages are highly regarded as the differentiator between successful students, showing that learning a second language is extraordinarily beneficial. The reasoning behind these higher wages for engineers is because the engineers need to be able to communicate with engineers from around the globe.


Cognitive development in monolinguals compared to that of bilinguals was greatly debated throughout the past century, and at first it was actually thought that bilinguals were slower at learning when compared to monolinguals. This idea was first proposed by the environmentalists in the 1930’s to explain why recent immigrants were not able to adapt to American society (Lee 501).


Research seemed to prove the negative effects of learning a second language, however due to the poor researching standards of the early 1900’s, many of the studies that seemed to “prove” learning a second language had negative effects were disproved. In the 1960’s, Peal and Lambert created the most reliable study of bilingualism so far, taking into consideration the test subjects’ socioeconomic status, their ages, and how proficient in both languages they were.


Through this accurate study, Peal and Lambert were able to show that what was previously commonly known, that bilinguals were not as intelligent as monolinguals, was completely false. What they found was that bilinguals significantly outscored monolinguals in the verbal tests, also proving that bilinguals had exceptionally higher test scores (Lee 503).


Looking at brain densities,the researchers concluded that bilinguals were more equipped for life by having increased gray

matter, allowing bilinguals to learn and accomplish more information and activities than monolinguals.


This supports Peal and Lambert’s earlier claim that bilinguals would be more successful in life compared to monolinguals, showing why language learning is required at schools today.

Learning a language has also been linked to staving off Alzheimer’s, causing many to continue their language learning careers throughout their lives. Bilinguals have been shown to

demonstrate “better executive control than m 1 onolinguals matched in age and other background factors” throughout their lives, leading to reduced mental decline later in life (Bialystok 241).


#1 Executive control is the set of cognitive skills based on limited cognitive resources for such functions as inhibition, switching attention, and working memory (Bialystok 241)



The reasoning behind this was that being bilingual has been found to improve cognitive control, making scientists wonder if this enhanced cognitive control would help stave off Alzheimer’s.

Bialystok goes on to mention that, “Bilingualism may be one of the environmental factors that contribute to cognitive reserve ”, meaning t 2 hat knowing a second language can keep your brain active enough to reduce decline into dementia (Bialystok 246). In order to prove their hypothesis,


Bialystok, Craik, and Freedman created an experiment in which the medical charts of dementia

patients who were bilingual and the medical charts of dementia patients who were monolingual were carefully studied and compared. What they found was that the bilingual patients had onsets of dementia three to four years later than the monolingual patients, proving their hypothesis that

bilinguals maintain brain strength longer, slowing down and staving off Alzheimer’s disease better than those who did not learn a second language in their lifetimes.


#2Cognitive reserve is the idea that engagement in stimulating physical or mental activity can act to maintain cognitive functioning in healthy aging and postpone the onset of

symptoms in those suffering from dementia.


Author: Ryan Skolnick  Copyright @ 2015

An AOL Jobs article that claims,


 “Bilingual pay differentials range between 5 and 20 percent per hour more than the position’s base rate”,


proving that learning a second language truly pays off in the long run (Morsch).

This proves that learning a second language effectively increases children's testing scores, leading to better opportunities within their lifetimes.


A post from WebMD validates this claim, mentioning how bilingual people have more gray matter than monolinguals, citing a study conducted by London’s Wellcome Department of Imaging and Neuroscience (Hitti).


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