In today’s society, twenty percent of the United States citizens are bilingual which demonstrates that America is rapidly growing. With all this growth, people are becoming fast learners when it comes to accumulating multiple languages. With the good comes the bad, therefore not all people are fortunate enough to learn and develop another language. By understanding and comprehending two languages you have achieved a big accomplishment. Being bilingual is important, especially in today’s society, because it allows people to become a dependable source – when it comes to their occupation. Being bilingual is also important because it shows the time and effort put into learning a new language, which shows devotion. Overall, being bilingual is a huge benefit because it allows people to work globally, increases job opportunities, and it opens the doors to a new culture. Many businesses around the United States associate with their workers and customers globally.
Being bilingual is efficient because as the businesses expand, they need people to talk to others from across the globe. Plus, if you can speak a language someone else cannot then you are reliable for that business. Another plus about being bilingual in the cooperate world is they usually offer a higher pay or rank to people who know multiple languages. Most companies do that because it is hard to find people out there that can fluently speak another language and can handle the situation and if those people were not there it would be chaotic. Therefore by stating all of this information, companies need bilingual people because they do not just deal with English speaking people, they also speak to people from all over the globe which is an important role to fill in a corporate job. Studies have shown that bilingual people have better task switching capacities because of their acquired ability to inhibit one language while using another.
In other words, speaking two languages forces your brain to recognize two different language systems. So, basically you become smarter. Researchers set lingual, arithmetical and physical tasks for 121 children, aged about nine, in Scotland and Sardinia, Italy. They found that the 62 bilingual children were significantly more successful in the tasks set for them. The study also assessed the children’s vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils. Bilinguals score higher on average on tests involving creative thinking or problem-solving. The ability to translate abstract concepts from one language to another also develops the skill to look at tangible problems in more than one abstract way. Did you know that people who speak more than one language tend to make fewer errors in their driving? A side benefit, nonetheless!
Bilingual adults and children seem to have social and emotional benefits like being able to internalize negative states like anxiety, aggression, anger, loneliness or low self-esteem less frequently. They have greater tolerance and less racism. It seems likely bilinguals would be more tolerant of differences and more open to diversity. According to studies, bilinguals tend to make better rational and financial decisions. Bilingual children are more likely to have an interest in the cultures that speak their second language, whether it is a “heritage” language or not. This can manifest early in life as an active interest in different educational avenues. Museums, fairs and street festivals, and even just visits to neighborhoods will have an inherent interest to bilingual children that monolingual children may not share.
Children raised bilingual are more likely to show tolerance for other cultures at a young age. They play more easily with children who do not speak their language or who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and are more likely to show an interest in socializing beyond their established circle. In early childhood, this helps greatly with school, which focuses heavily on social skills in the lower grades. It can also help prevent disciplinary needs later in life — more tolerant children are, overall, better-behaved children. Bilingualism promotes overall cognitive development because a bilingual individual encounters the world from two different language perspectives, which prevents them from having a limited experience. This extended way of thinking facilitates the approach to cognitive problems and higher level of abstract thinking.
Bilingual adults have a clear edge in business world. By being able to communicate in two languages, you have twice as many opportunities to land a great job. Being bilingual makes it easier to travel, find a job and belong to this new global world inside and outside of the U.S. Children’s brains are primed for the necessary language skill developments in a way that adults’ aren’t. Many of the advantages described here will show up most strongly if you start bilingualism in your child’s early age (the earlier – the better!). Adults can acquire the same skills and strengths through bilingual training, but it happens much more slowly (how much spare time do we have in our busy adult lives?) and with a greater need for tedious repetition. In conclusion, Bilingual individuals are the new norm and if you are monolingual you are staying behind the curve. It’s adapt to survive or you will not make it in this new world order.
Speaking more than one language may confer significant benefits on the developing brain. Research has now shown that bilingual young adults not only fare better in the job market, but are also more likely to demonstrate empathy and problem-solving skills.
The fact is that American adults are largely monolingual English speakers, even those who began life speaking more than one language. Based on the latest research, it might be time to rethink the emphasis on monolingualism in the US.
Speaking two languages has advantages
Over the past decade, my research has focused on the academic, social, and civic development of immigrant youth, specifically the ways in which schools shape how these students experiencelearning, friendships, and their communities.
As a former elementary bilingual teacher, I saw how full proficiency in both languages offered students significant academic and social advantages.
What was missing, however, was the link between my students’ early social and academic edge, and their entry into the job market as young adults.
For all the research that supports childhood bilingualism, it is only recently that scholars have begun to understand bilingualism in adults’ professional lives.
Bilinguals show highertest scores, better problem solving skills, sharper mental perceptions, and access to richer social networks.
In addition, young bilinguals are able to draw support from mentors in their home language communities, and from the dominant culture.
These young people benefit from the wisdom of the adage: the more adults who invest in a child, the stronger she will be. The bilingual child benefits from being raised by two or more villages!
Bilinguals more likely to get a job
Not only are bilingual young adults more likely to graduate high school and go to college, they are also more likely to get the job when they interview.Even when being bilingual is not a requirement, an interview study of California employers shows that employers prefer to both hire and retain bilinguals. Today, high-powered Fortune 500 companies hire bilingual and biliterate employees to serve as client liaisons.
Research links bilingualism to greater intellectual focus, as well as a delay in the onset of dementia symptoms. Frequent use of multiple languages is also linked to development of greater empathy.
Yet, despite research evidence, 4 out of 5 American adults speak only English.
English-only movement discourages another language
This is true for even those adults who began life exposed to more than one language. In the process of growing up American, many potentially bilingual children of immigrant parents lose their home language to become English monolinguals.
The powerful social and political forces behind the English-Only movement testify to the perceived threat of bilingualism . Every day, schools and districts across the nation succumb to external pressures and cut bilingual instruction.
Historically, research investigating bilingualism and the labor market has employed US Census measures that do not distinguish proficiency levels in the non-English language.
Most national data-sets define bilingualism with very broad strokes that do not distinguish between: a respondent who speaks only Spanish, one who speaks Spanish and a little English, and a third who is fully bilingual and biliterate. Failure to capture this heterogeneity obscures any clear relationship between bilingualism and the labor market.
Only recently have NCES data begun to include measures of self-reported proficiency in the home language, while other, more immigrant-specific data-sets have begun to ask these questions.
Bilingualism related to higher earning
Of late, newer data and sharper analytical methods provide a far richer measure of bilingualism and individuals’ ability to read and write in non-English languages.
The ability to distinguish between oral proficiency in one or more languages and actual literacy skills in two or more has allowed researchers to identify an economic advantage to bilingualism – in terms of both higher occupational status and higher earnings in young adulthood.
The new data-sets measure bilingualism in younger generations who enter a labor market defined not by geographic boundaries, but by instant access to information.
Relationship between bilingualism and intelligence
Beginning in the 1960s, linguists began to find a positive relationship between bilingualism and intelligence.
Building on this work, researchers found that elementary aged bilingual children outperform their monolingual peers on non-verbal problem solving tasks.
Then, in the late 1990s, research emerged showing that even when controlling on working memory, bilingual children display significantly greater attentional control to problem solving tasks than monolingual children.
Currently, researchers have begun to use data-sets that include more sensitive measures of language proficiency to find that among children of immigrant parents, bilingual-biliterate young adults land in higher status jobs and earn more than their peers who have lost their home language.
Not only have these now-monolingual young adults lost the cognitive resources bilingualism provides, but they are less likely to be employed full-time, and earn less than their peers.
Americans are beginning to grasp the cognitive, social and psychological benefits of knowing two languages.
Only 1 in 4 Americans can talk in another language
Historically notorious for their English monolingualism, a recent Gallup poll reports that in this nation of immigrants, only one in four American adults now reports being conversationally proficient in another language.
However, much more needs to be done if our nation is to remain a global leader in the next century.
Schools’role in the maintenance and development of potential bilinguals’ linguistic repertoires will be critical to this process. Whether through bilingual instruction or encouraging parents to develop their children’s home language skills, what schools do will matter.
Today’s potential bilinguals will contribute more as adults if they successfully maintain their home language.
Educational research leaves little doubt that children of immigrant parents will learn English.
Where we fail these children is in maintaining their greatest resource: their home language. It’s something we should cherish, not eradicate.
This article is published in collaboration with The Conversation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Rebecca Callahan is an Associate Professor Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Cultural Studies in Education at University of Texas at Austin.
Image: Plaster phrenological models of heads, showing different parts of the brain. REUTERS/Chris Helgren.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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