Bilingual Advantages

Science Daily reports that bilingual people have a strong advantage over monolingual speakers in learning new languages. According to the article:

“People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. And their bilingual advantage persists even when the new language they study is completely different from the languages they already know.”


An earlier report, also from Science Daily, reveals that bilingualism seems to protect the brain against some of the ravages of aging.

“Children who speak a second or third language may have an unexpected advantage later in life, a new Tel Aviv University study has found. Knowing and speaking many languages may protect the brain against the effects of aging….Dr. Gitit Kavé, a clinical neuro-psychologist from the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University, together with her colleagues Nitza Eyal, Aviva Shorek, and Jiska Cohen-Manfield, discovered recently that senior citizens who speak more languages test for better cognitive functioning.”

The United States is not known for a high percentage of bilingual citizens, though I myself live in an area where nearly half the population speaks both English and Spanish. Like many high school students, I did take foreign language classes: four years of Spanish. I also scored highly enough on the Spanish language Achievement Test that I didn’t have to take any foreign language in college. Today, I regret that. I like to joke that I speak one-and-a-half languages: I could survive in a Spanish-speaking country, but I’m nowhere near fluent. These studies have made me reconsider. My new goal: to read Chicago White Sox baseball news on their Spanish language website. It can’t hurt!