Do you speak a foreign language?
If you answered yes, then it’s likely that you are bilingual.
If you speak two, three, or four foreign languages, then you are multilingual.
To write this article today, I was inspired by our dear student Nurja. Nurja was born and raised in Switzerland, which is why she speaks German and French. Additionally, she learned English at school, and Nurja’s mother is Italian, so she has been exposed to Italian from a young age. Today, Nurja studies Italian regularly and uses these languages for work and socializing.
Nurja is very talented and also very lucky!
Not everyone has the fortune of being born in a country, city, or family where multiple foreign languages are spoken. Sometimes even schools don’t offer language courses.
Many of you probably love learning a foreign language but don’t have anyone to regularly speak with.
Is that so?
Learning a foreign language is a challenging mission, so sometimes it’s necessary to stop and reflect on why we are doing it.
In this article, we will talk about:
- The benefits of a bilingual brain
- The different types of bilingualism – which one is yours?
Are you ready? Let’s get started!
🌍 The benefits of a bilingual brain
There are two main categories that indicate the benefits of a bilingual brain:
- Social benefits
- Cognitive benefits
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t find any negative aspects in learning a language. If you’re interested in this topic, at the end of this article, you’ll find some resources to delve deeper into the subject of bilingualism.
🤝 Social benefits
👉 Traveling – Traveling while knowing the local language allows you to have deeper experiences. Let me tell you an anecdote: in 2021, I lived and traveled in Georgia. I don’t speak Georgian and knew only a few words and basic survival phrases. But thanks to those small phrases, I managed to be invited to the homes of some Georgian families for dinner. The language barrier existed, that’s undeniable. However, with a bit of goodwill, we managed to understand each other. These dinners with the local people made the whole experience more beautiful and interesting.
👉 Meeting new people – Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Indeed, speaking (even just a little) in the mother tongue of our interlocutor immediately creates a sense of trust and openness. From here, not only do you have the opportunity to form new relationships, but also to find yourself living new experiences.
👉 Having an international career – Knowing one or more foreign languages is a great advantage in our professional life. According to the European Employment Services, “Speaking a foreign language can help you stand out in the labor market and grab recruiters’ attention. Being bilingual doesn’t just look good on your CV – it develops other skills that employers find attractive in potential hires.” With this skill, you can interact with colleagues from around the world, travel for work, and advance in your career.
👉 Songs, films, memes… everything multiplies! – When you learn a foreign language, you also open yourself up to a new culture. You can discover not only new songs, films, and books, but also laugh along with funny pages on social media, find new YouTube channels for your interests, and discover new TV series. In short, new horizons will open up to you.
👉 It can change your life – Speaking a foreign language allows you to access unique opportunities that you might not have had access to by speaking only one language. Whether it’s your dream job, a great love, or important life experiences, a language opens a thousand doors and often helps you find what you’re missing, leading to a richer and happier life. Both I and Martina have personally experienced this.
🧠 Cognitive benefits
Neuroscience and neurolinguistics show that the brain of a bilingual person is very different from that of a monolingual person. Let’s look at some aspects (not all!):
👉 Improves cognitive efficiency – The skills acquired through foreign languages are transferable to various aspects of everyday life, such as problem-solving and decision-making.
👉 Enhances attention – Bilingual individuals can focus on the most relevant information, isolating and recognizing it more quickly while ignoring less relevant details.
👉 Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and senile dementia – In general, speaking another language protects against cognitive decline, including the loss of certain cognitive functions such as memory. This doesn’t mean it provides 100% protection, but it reduces the risks.
👉 Increases linguistic intuition – Speaking one language facilitates the learning of another language you don’t know because the brain has a deeper understanding that allows it to make hypotheses about how other languages work.
🗣️ Types of bilingualism – what’s yours?
Bilingualism is never symmetrical.
What does it mean?
If a person knows how to speak two languages, they don’t use these languages in the same way, in the same situations, or in the same proportion.
Let’s look at the most common types:
👉 Balanced Bilingualism – The individual can speak, write, listen, and understand all languages equally.
👉 Unbalanced Bilingualism – The individual excels in some skills more than others. For example, Mila Kunis (an actress of Ukrainian origin who became a naturalized American) speaks Russian but cannot read it, as shown in this video.
👉 Simultaneous or Near-Simultaneous Bilingualism – The individual learns two or more languages at the same time from childhood.
👉 Successive Bilingualism – The individual learns the second language after acquiring and consolidating the first language.
These are the most common types of bilingualism, but here’s another important reflection to make: bilingualism is like clothing; there is no one size that fits all. There is no being less bilingual or being more bilingual; there is only learning a foreign language at different times and in different situations.
To sum up
As this video aptly states, “Bilingualism probably won’t make you smarter, but it makes your brain healthier, more complex, and actively engaged.“
In short, if you’re studying Italian (or another language), you’re doing a great favor to your brain and your life. Keep it up!
Here are some resources for further exploration:
- “The benefits of a bilingual brain” by Mia Nacamulli
- “The cognitive advantages of bilingualism” by Antonella Sorace
- “Does speaking two languages improve memory?” by Superquark with Piero Angela
I also have a question for you:
What is your type of bilingualism?
Let me know by commenting below.
When you are ready, we are here to help you with:
- The Italian Conversation Room: to become confident in speaking Italian and to learn how to clearly talking about everyday topics;
- The Italian Writing Room: to improve your communication skills and pronunciation in Italian with a 110% personalized feedback;
- Private lessons: for a completely personalized experience;
- The Italian Cohort Room: to improve your grammar.
That’s it for today!
We hope that you have learned something new.
See you soon,
My Italian Room – Clara & Martina