Multilingual Brain: Advantages of learning more than one language

The paranoia regarding learning new language for kids is evident from the recent launch of Single National Curriculum in Pakistan. Parents fear failure of their children to adapt to Urdu language as they have been taught similar subjects in English. While teaching any specific language is a personal preference, there is one thing evident from the whole episode i.e. lack of information on child’s brain. Be it Urdu, English, Chinese or Japanese, learning more than one language is not just a fancy addition to your child’s profile or a burden as perceived by some. Research shows numerous benefits of learning multiple languages at an early age, an ability that leads to Multilingual Brain. Let’s educate ourselves regarding advantages of learning more than one language from theoretical as well as scientific perspective.

Understanding how a Child’s Brain works

Babies are born with millions of brain cells. Each brain cell connects with other brain cells through branches called dendrites. Dendrites are connected at places in brain which are known as synapses. Each electric signal passing between brain cells cross synapses between them. The interesting part to understand is that whenever synapses are stimulated, the patterns formed in brain become hard-wired. It means they become a permanent pathway which makes brain signals’ transmission more swift and precise. This is why we often get recommendations about activities, toys and videos that can stimulate child’s brain.

Children’ environment and people they interact with highly influence their brain. Parents work hard to enhance their children’ cognitive, motor, emotional and social development that is all linked to brain stimulation. It is important to keep the stimulation on in order to avoid losing neural connections. Research in neurosciences have revealed that learning different languages provide a constant stimulation to brain through effortless repeated experiences. No matter which language a child is learning, it will always provide an added benefit in terms of cognitive development.

How learning multiple languages benefit children?

There are several advantages of learning more than one language as highlighted by numerous studies and scientific theories.

  1. Children who hear two languages at home have greater advantage of processing multiple sounds and words. This gives them an added advantage in their academics. Children exposed to more than one language can easily acquire additional language skills. Moreover, they are familiar with rules of communication, grammar and vocabulary.
  2. Young children can learn multiple languages better than adults. Since their brains and neural connections within are still forming, it leaves permanent marks on transmission signals. Moreover, learning language early is easier as the brain utilizes same part of synapsis to learn new language as their mother tongue. It can have lasting neural stimulation.  That is why experts recommend that children should learn new languages at early age.
  3. Multilingual brains are also found to be more capable of solving complex problems along with better listening, memorizing and speaking skills. Moreover, they are more capable of multitasking, creativity and flexibility.
  4. Studies on multilingual children found that they performed better in academics than their unilingual peers. The subjects included Mathematics, logic and language comprehension.
  5. Learning multiple languages also increase empathy and cultural awareness in children. It provides them a better chance at adjusting to the global exposure during education and employment. This is because language learning involves understanding of expressions and emotions behind language formation. This in turn, can help children in relating to other cultures.
  6. It goes without saying that students with additional language skills have greater chances of employability especially given the global nature of jobs today. Depending on additional language skills acquired, employers are most likely to hire people with expanded view of the world for global interactions in their business.

Ongoing Studies on Multilingual Brain

Ongoing studies on multilingual brains are showing promising results for keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay. Although conclusive results are yet to be presented, studies done during the last decade show that teaching multiple languages to people create a cognitive reserve in brain. This is due to the fact that language learning requires extensive brain network. The reserve built by brain stimulation can overlap parts of brain that are negatively affected by aging process.  The results obtained are optimistic enough to reinforce advantages of learning more than one language.

Learning multiple languages DOES NOT confuse a child!

A common myth about teaching a child more than one language is that it can cause delay in their regular learning or cause confusion in use of a primary language. However, studies by experts suggest that acquiring a new language or multiple languages at the same time actually increases gray-matter density in brain which sharpens language processing, speech and memory.

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