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Advantages of bilingualism

The many advantages in becoming bilingual are outlined below

Communication advantages

  • Communication within the family may be improved. Being able to communicate with each parent in the parent‒s preferred language may contribute to making the parent-child relationship closer and enables parents to pass on part of their own heritage to their child. Bilingualism is also valuable in enabling children to communicate with extended family.
  • Wider communication – international links. Bilinguals may also be bridge builders between different language communities.
  • Biliteracy – gives knowledge of different world views and values

Cultural advantages

  • Bilinguals have the opportunity to experience two cultures, complete with behaviour systems, traditions, stories, greetings.In short, they have two windows on the world.
  • Greater tolerance and less racism. It seems likely that bilinguals would be more tolerant of difference and diversity and less likely to be racist but this is yet to be scientifically tested.

Cognitive advantages

  • In tests that measure creative thinking or divergent thinking (e.g. imagine you have a brick/tin can/cardboard box – how many ways could you use it?) bilinguals regularly score higher i.e. they think of more uses than monolinguals. (Most tests do not measure this i.e. IQ measures convergent thinking when there is only one right answer). Bilinguals seem to think more freely, more elaborately and more creatively.

Character advantages

  • Raised self esteem. This may depend on the attitude of the wider community to the languages spoken. However, in general, in Europe/the US, being bilingual is seen as a positive thing (once achieved). Also, the praise and recognition of the second language given by parents in order to achieve bilingualism may also help self esteem.
  • Security in identity. Bilinguals have close links with their heritage, they know who they are and where they come from. Children who loose one half of their linguistic heritage may regret this later.

Curriculum advantages

  • Increased curriculum achievement. Studies have found that bilingual children who have a fairly well developed knowledge of two languages do better at school. This may result from multiple factors, such as higher self esteem, creative thinking and a wider worldview.
  • Bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language than monolinguals find it to learn a second language – two thirds of studies show this result, the other third could find no difference. It is not yet known why this should be – it could be down to higher confidence.

Cash advantages

  • Economic and employment. Studies show that bilinguals earn more on average in the US and more recently in the UK. As companies become more and more international there is a need for bilinguals in media, sales, marketing, customer services. Although children may resist one language, by the time that they are young adults almost without exception they are extremely grateful to have two (or more) languages. The short term struggle is worth it in the long term.