Two Languages Are Better Than One
I was born and raised in Central Illinois during the 60's and 70's. At the time, there wasn't much need to know another language - other than it was a requirement to graduate high school. Little did I know then that that was going to change after I graduated from college and moved to Arizona. I ended up going to Mexico, and there, I found my wife. Ever since, my life has been enriched by not only learning a second language, but also another culture.
I haven't been the only one that has been enriched by learning another language. In fact, there are numerous studies that have found that knowing more than one language can be beneficial in many areas of one's life.
Even though our brains aren't exactly made of muscle, they still require exercise. In science, the term "cognition" is defined as a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision-making. It has been discovered that the learning of a second language exercises all these areas of our brains, which helps keep our brains sharp and healthy.
Also, by our brain having a broader source of information, bilingual speakers make decisions quicker. This positive effect on ones mental development also enhances us intellectually, and therefore those who know more than one language tend to perform better on IQ tests and SAT's.
Another area of our brains that gets exercised is the area of creativity. By knowing more than one language, our vocabulary is expanded, and therefore, we are given more choices when we want to convey our thoughts and ideas. So, we are able to train our brains to more creative as far as how we express ourselves.
Children who learn two languages tend to have a better retention of ideas in general, and even at an early age they show a greater understanding of shapes and patterns. On the other end, studies at UCLA and the University of California have indicated that being bilingual can help ward off dementia and Alzheimer's. It is believed that the added mental stimulation is therapeutic, and helps the brain to be resistant to these type of diseases.
Knowing two languages forces our brains to filter content more acutely to try to decipher, first of all, which language is being spoken and then what is being said. Our listening skills are heightened, we are more attentive, and we interact more during a conversation. Because of this, we become better conversationalist.
In general, because of the increased success, better relations, etc., bilingual speakers are more likely to have a positive attitude and high self-esteem. They show more tolerance and appreciation of differences, and their social and emotional well-being is healthier. Also, knowing two or more languages is beneficial in opening doors to greater career opportunities. It's never too late to start learning another language. The more languages you know the larger your circle of friends will be, and the more places you can go to explore.