As the world we live in continues to diversify and becomes increasingly connected, individuals who are bilingual or who speak multiple languages seem to have an obvious advantage. But while the ability to communicate with people from different cultures is a huge asset, bilingual children and adults experience some significant health benefits as well.
“From the perspective of brain development, [growing up bilingual] is very beneficial,” Azadeh Aalai, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Montgomery College in Maryland, and author of “Understanding Aggression: Psychological Origins & Approaches to Aggressive Behavior”, told Saludify. “Our brain has structural plasticity, meaning it changes and adapts based on what we are exposed to in the environment, so learning multiple languages actually serves as an enriching experience that optimizes the capacity of the brain.”
Research on bilingual children
The American Psychiatric Association indicates bilingual children have an enhanced ability to process sounds and therefore are more likely to pay attention in a learning situation.
The benefits, outlined in a study from Northwestern University, supported previous findings that demonstrated bilingual children showed reduced levels of anxiety, loneliness and poor self-esteem, as well as a reduction of negative externalizing behaviors such as arguing, fighting or acting impulsively. According to the experts, part of the reason for lower levels of social stress among bilingual children had to do with the ability to understand and accept the multiple cultures which came along with learning multiple languages.
This ability to have a multicultural understanding—not just an understanding of multiple languages—is what sets bilingual children apart from someone who has learned a second language just to learn it.