The Benefits of being bilingual

Megan Mills, Entertainment Editor

Worldwide around 60 percent of people can speak and converse in more than one language, however according to U.S government statistics in America that number stoops down to only 20 percent. Therefore, while the majority of the world can speak more than one language, in America the majority only speaks one. Is this majority perhaps missing out on reaping benefits that have social, phycological, and career advantages?

To fully understand the importance of language one must look back to the origin of language and its importance to human evolution. Languages continuously change over time due to shifts in culture and when different languages come in contact with each other. The true origin of language is often debated due to the spoken nature of language and its inability to leave physical evidence. Language evolves due to the human need to communicate. This aspect of human nature is what still makes language such an important aspect of people’s identity and culture.

People who speak more than one language reap social benefits based on their ability to communicate with a large portion of the population. Their ability to speak multiple languages provides them with a better vocabulary and increased skill in expressing themselves. This ability allows them to speak with more people from different countries and can broaden their social horizons. Studies have shown that children who are bilingual are better equipped socially than their monolingual counterparts; they show better self control and a better ability to self-regulate negative emotions. It has also shown they feel loneliness less often and have a higher self esteem. Bilingual children through these social benefits also gain benefits later in life.

“Socially you can connect better with other people and your perspective of others changes your knowledge of the culture and can help to reduce the bias we have for others.” said Marta Estarellas head of the language department at the InterAmerican development Bank. “Having that chance will expand you socially.”

Speaking more than one language is a coveted trait in employment. More and more employers have an increased demand for multilingual candidates. With new technological benefits and lots of business being conducted online; in the modern day many companies are serving a more global market. A candidate who speaks more than one language is more likely to be chosen than a monolingual competitor who can’t communicate with as many people. This makes speaking multiple languages a very competitive trait in the job sphere as early as the application process.There is also opportunity to gain more money in jobs when asked to work as a translator or interpreter. These language differentials can lead to a 5 to 20 percent pay raise. These competitive edges that are afforded to people who speak many languages are increasingly true in fields such as healthcare, IT, customer service, hospitality, and communications.

“In global organizations more and more people are looking for employees who are bilingual and multilingual because these are the people who are easier to get into work assignments in other countries and more meaningful opportunities and positions.” said Estarellas

In FCPS the language programs are an integral part of the education system. As stated in the fcps website the primary goals of the language program are to communicate in other languages, gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures, connect with other disciplines and acquire information, develop insight into the nature of language, and to participate in multicultural communities at home and around the world. Taking a world language is also a graduation requirement. For the standard diploma one must take 2 years and for the advanced diploma one must take 3 years. In FCPS parents and guardians speak 121 different languages and dialects at home and in 21% of households students speak in a language other than English. 48% of FCPS students speak English and at least one other language.

“It’s important for high schoolers to take a foreign language as a foreign language teacher, but I think it goes beyond the language as you know in class, we do a lot of culture we talk perspectives it really opens up your brain to other ways of thinking beyond learning a language I also think that it allows students to make connections with their own language, and since language is part of your identity, I think you get to learn a lot about yourself when you learn a foreign language.” said Valerie Howell World Language Department Chairperson.

Speaking multiple languages and growing up navigating two languages gives a person a unique cultural identity. Knowing the language of a country really allows people to immerse themselves within the culture.

In the increasingly interconnected and integrated world the skill of speaking multiple languages continues to increase in value. The growing global demand for multilingualism and the fundamental benefits it awards, such as the ability to communicate with a wider range of people, improvement in cognitive functions, and a reduced risk for dementia, has become increasingly important in the modern day. As people get older it becomes more difficult to learn languages so it is important to get started as soon as possible. Bilinguality makes people more global citizens with a greater appreciation for cultural differences. They can navigate and actively engage in worldwide issues and are equipped with global perspectives that prepare them for future mondial challenges.