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Being Bilingual Good for the Brain

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In the modern world, being bilingual (or even multilingual) has many benefits. As one example, children who speak two languages score higher in math. Or as another example related to the business world, employers tend to offer a higher salary if the employee can speak more than one language. And let's not forget that people who speak another language have also been exposed to another culture, which can bring about a greater acceptance and understanding of others. However, did you know that bilingualism benefits the brain too?

Increasingly, more and more scientists are reaching a consensus that speaking two or more languages provides measurable positives. Improved memory and decision-making skills serve as one benefit. Bilingualism also wards off Alzheimer's Disease.

The brain of multilinguals must suppress one language. In other words, let's say someone knew both Spanish and English. When he/she used Spanish in a conversation, then the brain would need to ignore the momentarily irrelevant English. This results in frequent exercise for the portion of the brain responsible for focused thought and problem-solving skills.

There's more, though. People who use two or more languages also can switch between tasks more quickly, perhaps because these people are more accustomed to the confusing back and forth between languages. And as for people with dementia, the first signs generally appear at about 71.4 years of age for monolinguals, but 75.5 years of age for bilinguals.

As research continues, scientists will likely discover even more reasons to acquire a foreign language. Being adept at two languages results in desirable consequences.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Brainstorm: Brainstorm with a partner(s) words and ideas associated with "bilingual" for 2 minutes. Spend another 5 minutes or less discussing the words and ideas together.

True or False? : Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Bilingual employees always earn more money.
  2. According to the article, bilingualism can fight against Alzheimer's Disease.
  3. Certain portions of the brain get stronger when someone speaks two languages.
  4. Bilingual people can switch between tasks more quickly
  5. Scientists have already discovered even more reasons to learn a foreign language.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. Would you want to learn a third, fourth, or fifth language? Why/not?
  2. What is the most difficult aspect of learning a language? Why do you think so?
  3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn English? How about your native tongue?
  4. Do you think this information will motivate people to learn a foreign language? Why/not?
  5. What other benefits come from being multilingual? Please explain.

Google Search: Type "bilingual" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:



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