Importance of Bilingualism
Research indicates that there are many benefits to being bilingual:
In today’s economy, people who are bilingual are not only in demand with more job opportunities, but they also command higher salaries and promote quicker than their monolingual counterparts.
In addition, bilingual children have been shown to outperform monolingual children on both verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests (Bruck, Lambert, and Tucker, 1974; Hakuta, 1986; Weatherford, 1986).
More recently, scientists have discovered that bilingual adults have denser gray matter (brain tissue packed with information-processing nerve cells and fibers), especially in the brain’s left hemisphere, where most language and communication skills are controlled. The effect is strongest in people who learned a second language before the age of five and in those who are most proficient at their second language. This finding suggests that being bilingual from an early age significantly alters the brain’s structure (Society for Neuroscience, 2008).
Other research suggests that children who have received instruction in a second language are better at solving complex problems and are more creative than those who have not (Bamford and Mizokawa, 1991).
Learning a second language can also benefit a child learning to read. A study of the reading ability of 134 four- and five-year-old children found that bilingual children understood better than monolingual children the general symbolic representation of print (Bialystok, 1997).
Finally, bilingualism has also been shown to decrease the effects of Alzheimer’s in adults.