Wed. Aug 21st, 2019

What can a second language do for you

Kaina Elias
staff writer
As many of you know, the United States does not have an official language on a federal level, although some states have made English their official language. Most Americans, however, consider English an unofficial native language for the country. There are around 230 million people that speak English in the U.S, while “only” 40 million speak Spanish. Many other languages are spoken in America, like Mandarin, Arabic, French or Portuguese, but English and Spanish represent the majority.
With such diversity, I am mesmerized by the amount of people judging non-English speakers. The argument that, in America we should only be speaking English, gets me every time. I come from a place where a few languages are spoken rather than just one.
Speaking a language other than your native one is not only important for your brain, but also your communication skills. Not to mention, it is also cool.
We live in a world where everything is connected, the so-called globalization. It is natural that we as humans would standardized communication somehow and it is obvious the universal language is English. I mean that no matter where you go, usually English is going to be your escape route if you don’t speak the native language. Personally, that is one of the many perks I have living in the U.S. is being able to learn English quickly because of immersion, which is the best way to learn.
My goal here, however, is to try to explain to native English speakers how beneficial a second language can be for you. One example? Being bilingual can protect you against Alzheimer’s. That’s the takeaway from research, which showed that multilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing the disease. Psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto tested about 450 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Half these patients were bilingual and half spoke only one language.
Even though all patients had similar levels of cognitive impairment, researchers found that those who were bilingual, on average had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years later, compared to those who spoke only one language. Meanwhile, bilingual people had reported their symptoms begun, on average, five years later than those that spoke one language only.
Like stated earlier, I just wanted to show a few perks of speaking more than one language. By experience, when one speaks a second language, one can get him/herself thinking in both dialects, having dreams with both languages, being able to communicate better regardless of the language being spoke, etc. Besides being a good brain exercise, learning a second language can open your mind to accept more cultures, being more diverse and curious about other people’s way of living. That’s how English and lately Spanish, have been impacting me. So, if you want to expand your mind and make your world bigger, I recommend trying to learn a new way to communicate with people. Life is too short to speak just English.
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