Speaking Another Language Makes You Smarter

Ralf Peter Reimann/Flickr

Ralf Peter Reimann/Flickr

The ability to speak more than one language undoubtedly boosts your potential to succeed in the workforce, but it may also mean that you’re more intelligent than your monolingual counterparts.

It pays to be bilingual! Apart from the countless career incentives that go with being able to speak more than one language, like increased pay or promotion, research shows that bilingual speakers earn more in their respective fields than their monolingual co-workers.

Bilingualism is also said to improve executive functions and impact our brain development and cognitive skills more than we may think.

According to the New York Times, bilinguals are actually smarter than monolingual speakers because the benefits of being able to speak more than one language “can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.”

The article goes on to explore the study conducted in 2004 by psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee on bilingual and monolingual preschoolers. Their study is the snappily-titled, ‘The development of two types of inhibitory control in monolingual and bilingual children

Bialystok and Martin-Rhee’s evidence suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s executive function—a set of mental processes that we use for activities such as planning, decision-making, strategizing, remembering and other related tasks.

Cognitive Benefits

Bilingualism is said to promote cognitive development, because the brain is constantly switching back-and-forth between two active language systems which work simultaneously. This produces an extended way of thinking as bilinguals are able to consider multiple possible scenarios and solutions to a single problem.

“Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often—you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says researcher Albert Costa of the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.”

This advanced way of thinking facilitates bilinguals’ ability to solve cognitive problems, improve focus, concentration, memory and decision-making skills.

Bilinguals also have advanced linguistic skills and an innate understanding of language that makes learning additional languages easier than it is for a monolingual individual to learn a second language. Their grey matter—a region of the brain involved with spatial orientation and cognition—is denser than that of a monolingual speaker.

Personal and Intellectual Growth

Studies have concluded that bilinguals convey emotions better and have a higher sense of self-worth and self-understanding–bilinguals are also considered to be less judgmental and more objective than monolinguals.

Also, speaking another language is sure to enrich your travel experiences and improve your appreciation and tolerance for other cultures.

How has being a bilingual or multilingual speaker benefitted you? Or what problems have you faced as a monolingual speaker?

See how building your foreign language skills can improve cognitive development and boost brain power, by working with Language Trainers, the language experts! Take a free online language level test to warm up the brain, then send us an inquiry to dive right in. Your brain will thank you.