The Bilingual Advantage -
Claudia Forero

The cognitive advantages of being bilingual are numerous, including increased mental flexibility and metalinguistic abilities, improved executive function and better ability and more willingness to learn a third language. The reason is that when using two or more languages, ideas come from a common source. Research shows that information about both languages is activated in the brain even when a speaker is only using one language. In addition, because all languages are constantly activated in the brain, bilinguals must deactivate the language not needed.

By doing so, they enhance executive control functions (such as inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility) and are better at focusing, multitasking, and selecting relevant information. Some researchers, like Ellen Bialystok, clearly show that because bilingual speakers access linguistic information in their brains differently from monolingual speakers, they have an advantage in language processing, and they outperform monolingual speakers in reaction times for language processing and then producing relevant language in certain tasks.

On the other hand, we also know that more than half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages and there are many places where bilingualism is the norm. It is becoming obvious that linguistic and cultural fluency enhances one’s ‘human capital’. More and more, at equal technical skills, a bilingual individual will be chosen over a monolingual person. We can precisely identify four traits commonly shared by all bilingual individuals that give a real edge: better focus and multitasking abilities, better adaptability, increased cultural fluency, and more opportunities.

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