May 01, 2015

The Advantages of Being Bilingual

Posted by Retya Elsivia at 9:37 PM
Many people believe language is one of the gifts from God. Language not only allows people to express their thoughts and feelings but also to communicate with other. Based on Ethnologue’s latest statistics, the number of living languages in the world is about 7.106 (Ethnologue, 2014). Some people have capacity to know and use two or three or even more languages fluently. Those who have this ability are known as bilingual or multilingual person. One of founding fathers of bilingual studies, Uriel Weinreich, agree that “the practice of alternate using two languages will be called bilingualism, and the person involved, bilingual” (Hoffman, 1991). Bilingualism is common phenomena that occur in all the countries of the world in which people overwhelmingly attempt to learn another language other than their mother language. In article entitled Bilingualism, Birner states that there are a lot of advantages to knowing more than one language (Birner, n.d). This essay offers three reasons to support Birner’s idea. Being bilingual may improve brain function, create opportunity to learn third language and increase cross-cultural awareness.
            First, bilingualism is one of the exercise to optimize brain functioning. The brain plays an important role in human life. In the first stage, when people learn a new language, they will challenge their brain to recognize, remember and understand the language. They have to learn the words, phrases, sentences, grammar rules and all unusual features in their brain. These activities continuously stimulate the brain to think until people become fluent in two languages. When people speak to other person, the brain will quickly switch between different languages. One may talk to their parent in one language and to their friend in another language. According to Bialystok cited in Brien (n.d), it is being truly bilingual when speaking two languages and using them regularly so that it can improve the brain. For bilingual people, both languages are "always on," always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment. Therefore, being bilingual will force the brain to recognize the two different language systems.

            Second, a bilingual will be easier to learn another language. It is because of language is very similar to each other. For example one who can master the Chinese language with the kanji letters, he will probably able to master Korean language with Hangul letter or Japanese language with Hiragana and Katakana letter that is actually much simpler than kanji. In addition, when people learn English language, it will be easy to learn Dutch language because both languages have a similar structure and syntax (Damanik, 2013). Based on research of second language versus third language vocabulary acquisition, Mornar (n.d) shows the result that bilingualism in the Hungarian-Romanian students has a positive effect on their third language acquisition. In this case, besides the knowledge of a first language, knowledge of second language also formed a resource to the learner of a third language. Through learning a second language, the third and fourth languages come more easily.
            Third, when people learn a language, they are indirectly required to study the culture of the place where the language is used. A bilingual have easy access to different cultures and it encourage them to become open-minded and respectful towards the culture diversity. For example, one can determine Americans lifestyle from the dress or their character that tends to be individual-oriented, discipline, and strict to the time. Athanasopoulos et al, cited in Dean (2013) states that learning a new language can literally change the way you see the world. It means that because of cross cultural awareness, a bilingual will see the world from two different language perspectives.
            Finally, there are many advantages to be gained when a person becomes bilingual. Apart from enhance knowledge, bilingualism may also boost brain function, ease to learn other languages and increase cross-cultural awareness. Therefore it is important to learn second language because being bilingual will help and facilitate people in many things. It is never too late to get started as long as one continues to learn other languages.

1.      Birner. Betty. (n.d) Bilingualism, Washington, Linguistic Society of America.
2.      Brien, Sharon. (n.d) How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain [Online] Available at (Accessed 20 November 2014).
3.      Damanik, Caroline (2013) ‘10 Bahasa Asing Lain yang Paling Mudah Dipelajari’, Edukasi [Online] Available at (Accessed 20 November 2014).
4.      Dean, Jeremy. (2013) ‘10 Superb Psychological Advantages of Learning Another Language’, PsyBlog: Understand Your Mind [Online] Available at (Accessed 20 November 2014).
5.      Ethnologue (2014) Ethnologue: Language of the World [Online]. Available at (Accessed 7 December 2014).
6.      Hoffmann, Charlotte. (1991). An Introduction to Bilingualism, New York, Longman.
7.      Mornar, Timea. (n.d) Second language versus third language vocabulary acquisition:

A comparison of the English lexical competence of monolingual and bilingual students, Hungary, University of Szeged.

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