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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Guest Blogger: Benefits of Being Bilingual

While this blog's focus is on Spanish community service learning and social entrpreneurship, the following post from guest blogger, Courtney Phillips, reminds us of our starting place--the importance of learning a second language in the first place.
-Ann

Bilingualism is a norm for many people outside of the United States. In most non-English speaking European nations, English is a mandatory class along with other core requirements. While many who have relocated to the United States learn a second language by default, they are actually going to reap more long-term benefits as a result. What follows is a brief list of the benefits of knowing more than one language.

Less Distraction = Mental Longevity
In a recent article in the Washington Post, a study showed that people who spoke two languages were less likely to be distracted. This lack of distraction helps to keep mental faculties sharp as individuals age and reduces risks for age-related mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

More Opportunities
Knowing two languages opens the door for many opportunities down the road. Whether you are interested in teaching, translation, international business, or community outreach, you are far more qualified when you are able to communicate in more than one language. The ability to effectively speak more than one language will be very helpful in many educational and employment endeavors.

Earning Power
Studies around the world show that bilingual people typically earn 8-10% more than people who speak only one language. Particularly in teaching fields and job training and supervision, bilingualism can reap great financial rewards and bonuses. Though this shouldn’t be the only motivation for becoming bilingual, it’s nice to know that the hard work will pay off—literally.

Exercises Mental Faculties Regularly
Bilingualism requires that you actively and rigorously use your mind and engage it thoroughly in order to effectively communicate. This mental “exercise” helps bilingual individuals to perform well in other academic endeavors with great success. As a result, the opportunities for success are many for bilingual individuals.

Bridges Cultural Gaps
People who are bilingual generally have strong cultural connections, both to their native culture, and the culture of their second language. They serve as liaisons between the two cultures and as a result tend to have higher self-esteem and a good sense of character. This allows them to bridge gaps between the two cultures and helps to foster understanding and unity as well.

This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes about online college degrees at http://onlinecollegedegree.org/. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 at gmail.com.

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