Learning a new language is hard work. Does it really pay off?
Absolutely – even science says so.
Here are 5 reasons why you should start picking up a new foreign language.
1. It improves memory and cognitive performance
Studies have shown that bilinguals tend to have better memory and are able to switch between different tasks more quickly than monolinguals – much like how they juggle between two systems of speech, writing, and structure.
All the better to learn more languages. And, you know, everything else.
2. It improves focus
Bilingual brains are better at retaining focus – the likely result of the constant need to choose the correct language to speak at each moment and the ability to detect which language they’re hearing.
Perhaps this will tide you through Singapore’s long 9-6 work days, or your kid’s entire day of classes.
3. It improves decision-making
According to a study from the University of Chicago, bilinguals tend to make more rational decisions as they’re able to think through their decisions in multiple languages, minimizing biases and subtle implications in any single language’s vocabulary.
4. It keeps dementia at bay
The prevalence of dementia in Singapore for those aged 65 and above was 22,000 in Singapore, but is projected to increase to 53,000 in 2020 and an alarming 187,000 by 2050. Even among younger patients, dementia became four times as prevalent within the past 5 years.
Studies consistently find that multilingual adults develop dementia, if any, at a later age. A good four years, at least – on average, monolingual adults develop the first signs of dementia at 71.4, compared to multilingual adults at 75.5.
Thankfully it’s only 2016. Not too late to start!
5. You’ll become more awesome!
I mean, do we even need science to back this up?
People love being surprised by hidden talents – it’s like being the guy at the party who starts playing the piano beautifully while everyone begins to crowd around. Expats will admire your linguistic abilities and the effort you’ve put in; locals will be flattered that you’ve embraced their language.
In a multicultural society like Singapore, you’ll be able to communicate better with your foreign domestic helper, or order from the Chinese restaurant in Mandarin. And most importantly, you get to gain insight into a foreign culture!
By Pinky Chng, June 2016