Photo cred - Sylvain Granier
Being bilingual in Montreal has obvious social benefits (pick up anyone, at any bar, among many others) but knowing two languages also has some very real benefits for your brain, especially as you grow older. We all know there's a huge language debate ongoing in Montreal, and hopefully this'll take to cultural aspect out and prove for a different perspective.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and at York University in Toronto have both published works on the cognitive improvements one gains throughout their lives from being bilingual (the former more recently), making for a scientific argurment as to why all people should learn two languages.
If you're a fervent about only speaking one language (that goes to Anglophones and Francophones) then take a look at some of the very real cognitive advantages to being bilingual and reasons why you should simply learn a second language.
1. You'll read quicker
- Learning words and concepts in two different languages forces one to become more familiar with both language's lexicons, leading to faster reading times and comprehension.
2. You'll speak better
- One major improvement found in bilinguals versus unilingual folk was the formers improved verbal fluency, able to pronounce and speak words at a faster rate while still being completely understood.
3. You'll be a better multitask-er
- Knowing two languages constantly makes your brain choose between different words and phrases, while actively keeping the other language out of the way. This improves ones brain function like attention, selection and inhibition, all being high-level processes used when one multitasks.
4. You'll age better
- Bilingual folks build up cognitive networks in the brain's frontal system, the part of your brain that's first to degrade once you get old, but with a solid bases acquired via another language, the effects of aging on your mind will lessen. You'll also be less likely to acquire dementia, or at least at a later date.
5. You'll be smarter overall
- Learning a new language, and having all that information stored, is quite the brain workout, specifically for your frontal lobes, which are the main areas for many day-to-day cognitive processes like working memory and problem solving.
6. You don't need to keep speaking the other language
- Once you got a language in your head, and you've become bilingual on the cognitive level, you can sit pretty and chill with the benefits. Almost no difference was found between "active and passive" bilinguals in the Scottish study, as subjects were found to unconsciously still "activate" both languages even if they weren't using one that much.
7. It's never too late to start
- Don't think your outta luck because you didn't learn French/English growing up, as studies have shown lasting cognitive improvements in those who learned a new language later in life and adulthood.
8. Any/everyone will benefit
- No difference was found between subjects based on gender, country of origin, or socioeconomic status, meaning no matter what walk of life you hail from, being bilingual will still be a major boon to your brain.
9. There is no downside
- At the close of the Scottish study, not a single negative side effect was found due to bilingualism. So both in social interactions and cognitive processes, being bilingual is only going to help you out.
10. More is better
- If you can, try to bump up your bilingualism to gain a tri- or multi- prefix, as knowing three or more languages were found to produce stronger cognitive improvements than two.
For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte