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Advantages of bilingualism



Giornata di sole, pastelli, 4 anni


What else is bilingualism good for?

To answer this question, I'd invite you to listen to the interview conducted with Dr. Amy Weinberg, University of Maryland.

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Among other things, Dr. Weinberg says that bilinguals continuously train focusing on one of the (at least) two known languages, trying to temporarily suppress the other one when they  do not require its activation. This exercise would make them more likely to focus in general, increasing their ability to focus attention on a problem by eliminating distractions.

Therefore, knowing several languages ​​makes us more flexible, gives our mind that agility that allows us to focus better on the one hand, but also to deal with various other things, on the other, in conclusion it makes us multi-task, short it’s good for us! As we have seen above, several factors are involved in this process. First and foremost, the age of second language acquisition and, consequently, the span of our life spent as a bilingual. The longer they are, the more flexible we should be.

Another element to be reckoned with is the actual time we spent using the known languages. This account allows me to add that, if the language is known only passively, beneficial effects will not be so obvious. And this brings us to a speculation stemming from a definition of bilingualism which we have analyzed in a previous post: one becomes bilingual if, in addition to exposure to a language, there is also interaction. Now, a part from this definition, studies confirm that the positive effects are recorded in proportion to the time of use of the language. Last but not least, is the knowledge level of the idiom: the more in-depth it is, the greater will be the benefits that our mental health will draw.

I understand, even if not explicitly stated, that these three factors are interdependent and essential to each other. In fact, if a person has hypothetically learned a language only on the books and doesn’t speak it, the mental effort is only partial and, lacking the active aspect and the contact with the language probably being limited in time, the benefits he/she would derive should be much reduced. This does not mean that it wouldn’t still be a form of mental training, which certainly cannot hurt. However, I would dare to draw the conclusion that the three elements should be concomitant to confirm the results of the studies mentioned.


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