Languages: The Beauty and Benefits of Multiple Voices
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 60 million Americans, or 20 percent, speak a language other than English at home. In total, approximately 430 languages are spoken in homes across America. As the number of people who speak one or more languages continues to grow, researchers are able to study how being bilingual or multilingual impacts society. Their conclusions are clear: speaking more than one language has many benefits.
- Knowing more than one language is good for the brain. Research has shown that young children who are exposed to more than one language have increased executive function in their brains; that is, they are better at performing complex tasks, multitasking and monitoring their performance. For older people, speaking more than one language is also helpful, as it can delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms by four to five years.
- Opportunities for work increase for those who are bi- or multilingual. Being able to communicate with others throughout the world and throughout your community is a valuable employee trait. Job seekers who speak more than one language are more competitive in today’s diverse work environment and can often garner higher earnings than those who speak one language.
- Speaking in a native tongue makes for more meaningful travel experiences. When traveling abroad, those who speak the language of the country they are visiting have more access to hotels and activities, as they are not limited to those that accommodate foreigners. Often travel can be less expensive—and more authentic and rewarding—with these options.
- Being bi-or multilingual opens up one’s world. Speaking in multiple languages allows people to do more than just communicate; it allows them to truly connect with one another. Language is the gateway to learning about other cultures’ traditions, history and viewpoints and leads to increased understanding, empathy and friendship. Knowing more than one language can broaden a person’s perspective, allow them to see the world through new eyes and express themselves in a different way.