Benefits of Bilingual brain
Having good knowledge of more than one specific language, or being multilingual, can make travel easier or help us watch movies without subtitles but it also helps our brain work better than monolinguals, or the people who know only a single language.
Language ability is of two types, active and passive. The active part refers to the abilities of speaking and writing while the passive part refers to the abilities of listening and reading. And a balanced bilingual possesses nearly equal of all four abilities in both languages. Most bilinguals know and use their languages in varying proportions.
Depending upon situations and the means of acquiring language, bilinguals or multilinguals may be classified into three general types:
1. Compound bilinguals: Those who develop two or more linguistic codes simultaneously with a single set of concepts. This is generally the case with children beginning to learn to speak.
2. Coordinate bilinguals: Those who learn a new language while using another language in day-to-day life. This is the case with school students who study away from their home-region.
3. Subordinate bilinguals: Those who learn a new language by filtering it through their primary language. This is generally the case with professionals who work abroad.
With time and practice all people can learn and be proficient in new languages and thus for a casual observer it can be hard to differentiate amongst monolinguals and bilinguals. But the development in brain imaging technology has helped neurolinguists to observe how different aspects of learning a language affect the bilingual brain.
The critical period hypothesis implies that children learn new languages more easily because the plasticity of their developing brains helps them use both left and right hemispheres of their brains for language acquisition, while in most adults, language is limited to only one hemisphere which is generally the left hemisphere.
Regardless of when and how we acquire a new language, being multilingual gives our brain some remarkable advantages such as higher density of grey matter, more activity in certain regions of the brain while engaging in another language and the increased exercise of a bilingual brain can help delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia by upto five years.
Having a multilingual mind may not make us smarter but it does help make our brains healthier, complex and actively engaged and its always better to know more.