The Cognitive Benefits Of Being Multilingual

As today’s economy becomes more globalised, it makes sense to be fluent in two or more languages. The reason for this is simple: one of the many 21st century skills that an employable graduate is expected to have is “communication”. The best way to showcase that is to be multilingual (or at least bilingual!) in order to remain competitive in the job market, open up new opportunities and cross cultural borders.

But of course, there are other benefits aside from being able to communicate with people from all corners of the world. Here are some of the top cognitive benefits that will put your children in good stead if you enrol them in an international school in Singapore with a strong bilingual programme:

Improves brain regions responsible for cognitive functions

Being multilingual means that you juggle a number of languages at any one time. According to research, other languages will still remain active in your brain even if you were to use a certain language. Known as language co-activation, this creates a need for executive control on how much you access a language at any time because grammatical rules etc from a second language can distract you from understanding a message. Multilingual speakers will activate this control mechanism every time they communicate so it strengthens the brain regions that are responsible for cognitive functions over time.

Even babies who grow up in an environment that exposes them to different languages are found to have better cognitive development than babies of the same socioeconomic status, so picking up a second language is definitely beneficial for your child!

Boosts problem-solving, multitasking and decision-making skills

With greater executive control over the brain regions that are responsible for cognitive functions, comes greater cognitive flexibility. Since multilingual people have to constantly switch between languages, this greatly enhances their inhibitory control ability to disregard irrelevant information. For example, bilinguals are found to perform better in stroop tasks than monolinguals so this spells good news for their ability to multitask, focus better on high level tasks and solve problems creatively!

In the same grain, multilinguals are also believed to make more rational decisions that are not painted by emotional responses. This study suggests that thinking in a foreign language reduces a person’s ability to form images, which are based on our memories of places, people etc and affects our decision-making in an emotional way.

Improves the impact of learning

Remember the inhibitory control ability that we talked about earlier? Since it helps your children’s brains to remain agile, it also improves the impact of their learning by allowing them to focus on new information without being distracted by information or concepts that they already know. Multilinguals are also found to have better memories and are more perceptive of their surroundings.

Slows down age-related cognitive decline

With so much brain work going on, it’s no wonder that being multilingual is believed to slow down age-related cognitive decline. It might not be able to stop Alzhiemer’s disease altogether, but this study shows that speaking two languages could delay the onset by up to 5 years! Isn’t that amazing?

Choosing the right international school in Singapore

Now that you know all about the cognitive benefits that come from being multilingual, isn’t it time for you to consider international schools in Singapore that have a robust bilingual programme? Canadian International School (CIS), for instance, offers two bilingual programmes to forward-looking parents who want the best for their children: the Chinese-English bilingual programme and French-English bilingual programme.

If you are curious how these bilingual programmes stand out from the crowd, their selling point is in how they deliver the curriculum. At CIS, students enjoy equal exposure to both languages on separate days ie Chinese/French on one day and English on the next. CIS’s Chinese classes also follow the Big Apple programme, which allows students to learn about the Chinese culture with over 1000 Chinese fiction books. Sounds fun, right?

Both programmes are also fully aligned with the high quality International Baccalaureate educational framework, strong STEAM and arts programmes as well as diverse school community that CIS offers so it definitely sounds like a good investment to us!

A task where people are given a list of colour words and have to name the font colour instead of the actual word itself. For example, Yellow will be read as ‘red’ instead of ‘yellow’