We all want our own children to be knowledgeable, with wide-open horizons and very able to easily steer into this world. And every foreign language that they study can represent an access door to a better understanding of the world.
However, mastering more than one foreign language is not just about communicating with people of another nationality, it means more. In recent decades, the impact of bilingualism or multilingualism on individuals and their cognitive processes has been heavily studied, especially that nowadays more than half of the world's population is bilingual or multilingual. As an example, according to the Eurobarometer conducted by the European Commission in 2012, 54% of respondents reported that they can speak at least one other language than their mother tongue.
Linguists, psychologists, sociologists, neurologists, specialists in education, in public policy, or management (and many others) are trying to understand what multilingualism is. And because the literature is extremely extensive, a summary of the key points is welcome for a first impression:
The researchers discovered that students who fluently speak at least two languages have the ability to focus on their tasks more easily, by blocking factors that could distract them and by ignoring irrelevant information. These abilities are trained precisely through the process of switching from one language to another and through the ability to filter the information. Bilingual people can cope better with multitasks and logic problem solving because they have a higher cognitive flexibility than monolinguals.
And for learning a new foreign language (from scratch) or for improving one that the child is already studying, the best experience would be recreational camps abroad that combine the study of a foreign language (such as English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish etc.) with sporting, recreational and creative activities, trips and memorable international experiences.
2.Adaptability to change
And because multilingual people have the ability to implement new working strategies on the move, because they have a very developed distributive attention, because they have flexible cognitive functions and a better understanding of the differences between cultures, they become more adaptable to all kind of changes around them. Everyone wants to recover quickly after a small hurdle and find new solutions, right?
3. Bilinguals are better working with tasks involving conflict management.
For example, in the Stroop test, people see a word and have to name the color of the font of that word. Of course, if the written word is "blue" and it's written in blue, then the response speed is very good, usually. However, when the situation is a bit different and the word "red" is written in yellow, a conflict is created and more cognitive resources are needed to give the right answer. Bilingual people have the ability to inhibit distracting things and it's easier for them to respond correctly in a shorter time.
Let's make a try:
RED YELLOW BLUE BLACK PURPLE
How many correct words did you get? Let's try the same type of exercise, but with geometric shapes. Tell us what forms are represented:
4. Bilingualism / multilingualism develops empathy
Children who have grown up in a multilingual environment need to learn quickly in which situation or with which person to speak a certain language or another. It has been found that these children learn early to identify a person's mood, so their emotional development implicitly is significantly more pronounced. In addition, this kind of "training" develops the ability to be a good listener.
The theory of sociolinguist Susan Ervin (1968), according to which the spoken language alters personality has been confirmed over time by other studies. Any language reveals cultural differences and in order to be able to speak a certain language fluently, it is necessary to understand the culture represented by that language. For example, if a Swedish says, "There is no cow on the ice," and you will look around to see the nearest ice rink, although it's summer outside (so no ice or cow around), then it means that you have to study a little more Swedish language and culture because the expression Det är ingen ko på isen has a different meaning than you would expect. It means "You have nothing to worry about".
A new foreign language can also be learned in adulthood! Many adults think that once they reach a certain age, no new language can be learned. There are many studies that confirm that with age, it's harder to understand a language other than the mother tongue. According to a UCL study, the difficulties experienced by adults are not biological but perceptual. With the right stimulus, adults can learn a lot of foreign languages without any headaches. Moreover, maintaining a constant brain activity by speaking several languages will significantly delay the degradation of brain functions! Including Alzheimer's disease has a much lower impact. And this applies to people who learn a foreign language at any stage of their life.
So, what foreign language do you want to study?