Most people know that speaking more than one language has its benefits. You can watch foreign films without subtitles, read the original novel instead of the translation, and you can definitively tell your friends if the nail technician at the salon is really talking about them. But speaking more than one language can have much more far-reaching effects on your life. People who speak more than one language are different—their opportunities in life are different, their experiences are different, and even their brains work differently. Below are some of the ways that knowing multiple languages influences you.
It Gives You Better Job Prospects
The majority of Americans speak only one language. Speaking more than one language can give you an edge in the job market, especially in positions that involve a lot of interacting with the public. As someone who speaks more than one language, you are more prepared should someone who doesn’t speak English walk in the door or call your office. Call center resumes look particularly attractive to potential employers if the job-seeker speaks more than one language.
Another field that requires speaking more than one language that is rapidly growing is translation and interpreting. Fluency in more than one language opens the door to work in any field as a translator or interpreter, though the greatest need is in the military, law, and medicine. The more languages that you speak, the better your prospects.
It Improves Cognition
Knowledge of multiple languages has also been proven to improve cognitive processing in both children and adults. In one 2012 study, for example, 5 to 7-year-old children were divided into two groups: monolingual and bilingual. They were then given a series of tasks that tested working memory and executive function. The bilingual children proved to be better able to filter out distractions and outperformed the monolingual children in all areas.
The ability to speak more than one language also has benefits for adults well into old age. A study performed in 2010 set out to discover whether or not speaking more than one language can delay the onset of dementia in Alzheimer patients. They discovered that the multilingual patients were diagnosed later in life and also experienced the onset of dementia an average of 5 years later than the monolingual patients. In short, learning new languages keeps your brain healthy no matter your age.
It Changes the Way You Think
People who speak different languages think differently. A common example of this phenomenon is to compare the English language with Inuit languages in Alaska. As you know, English-speakers have only one word for snow. Inuit tribes, however, have multiple. Each word depends on the condition and use of the snow. We think differently about snow, therefore we speak differently about it.
It can also work the other way around—switching to a different language actually changes the way you think while you are speaking that language. Different languages might not share the same concepts, so in order to express yourself you have to shift how you think. Essentially, speaking more than one languages helps you gain more perspective on other cultures.
It Makes You a More Confident Traveler
Many individuals who have the means to travel abroad opt not to out of fear. They fear culture shock, getting lost, or getting taken advantage of because of their lack of language skills. Speaking at least one foreign language gives you more confidence as a traveler because if you speak the native language, you can handle any situation that gets thrown at you.
Even if you don’t know the native language, by speaking more than one language it is more likely that you will come across people who share a language in common with you. You will make more friends and experience things you would never have experienced if you only spoke one language.
In conclusion, being able to speak multiple languages can impact every facet of your life. It makes you more employable, improves cognitive function, gives you a different perspective, and helps you travel without fear. In a way, language opens doors to a different kind of life.
The article was written by Addison Jenning.