In 2008 during a rally speech President Obama commented on bilingualism, saying, “You should be thinking about …. how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.” And there’s a lot of reasons why speaking more than one language is a good idea.
Most research articles find that there are more “polyglots”–people who speak more than one language–than those who only know their mother tongue.
In a world that’s getting increasingly global, it is becoming increasingly more important to be able to interact and connect with not just those around you, but the entire world, which is filled with cultures and people of many differences and varieties.
So, how do you interact with this globalized, international world? Almost everyone you ask will, in so many words, suggest learning more about the various cultures and countries. While this can be done through reading and visiting, it is indisputable that the best way to truly learn about a country is to learn the language.
Learning another language opens doors. It improves tolerance by opening people’s eyes to a way of doing things that’s different, and increases the comfort level of someone in an unfamiliar situation. This extends more than just higher tolerance and appreciation–learning new languages has been shown to reduce social anxiety!
Going beyond cultural appreciation, bilingual education also has drastic impacts on the brain. Researchers at the York University in Toronto found that children who know two or more languages have greater cognitive flexibility, meaning they can process a larger amount of information. Switching from one language to another helps with multitasking and greater depth of understanding.
Also, studies have found that being bilingual helps prevent dementia. A 2010 study of 211 Alzheimer’s patients found that those who knew more than one language staved off dementia longer than their peers.
With all these reasons, what the former president suggested doesn’t seem that bad of an idea.
Having kids speak more than one language? Yes, please!