Multilingualism is the term used to describe the proficiency in more than one language by an individual or a community. For example, most Malaysian citizens are bilingual or multilingual as they learn at least two languages in school in addition to their mother tongue. Although the medium of instruction in international schools is English, additional languages are commonly offered such as Mandarin, French and Spanish.
Here are some benefits of being able to communicate in more than one language in school and beyond.
1. The brain works better
Studies have shown that learning a new language has a number of cognitive benefits. Children who speak two or more languages are more likely to have good attention span and the ability to multitask. This is because their brain is able to switch from one language to another. These qualities are beneficial in school and will aid greatly in the child’s learning. Besides that, multilingual children will find it easier to learn a new language in the future if they want to.
2. Creates a more open-minded personality
As language is a big part of culture, multilingual children can have access to two or more cultures which allows them to gain new perspectives on certain issues. For example, they are able to read the same news article in a different language. As a result of that, children will be more open-minded and aware of different cultures around the world. This global mindedness will also help children make new friends and communicate with more people from different cultures.
3. Linked to health benefits
There have been studies that prove learning a new language is linked to a number of health benefits. The process of learning a language keeps the brain active and improves blood flow to the area. In the long run, good brain health can delay onset of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. It also may reduce stress levels and quicken stroke recovery.
4. Useful for life after school
Knowing more than two languages has many advantages especially when students leave secondary school. The educational benefits experienced in school by multilingual children will continue when they pursue higher education, increasing their chances of thriving in the pre-university and undergraduate studies. Multilingual individuals are also highly sought after in the workplace, especially by multinational companies with ties to many countries.