Communities in our world today are interconnected - friendships are made across the globe, jobs are global, this is why learning to speak multiple languages to connect and communicate is now more important than ever to thrive in a global economy.
Importance of Bilingual Education
As the world gets more and more connected, so is the increase in the importance of learning to speak and communicate in different languages. Employers are more attracted to bilingual job applicants and are less inclined to lay off employees who are bilingual as these individuals, the ones who can effectively communicate across cultures, are more valued in today’s society. Being able to speak Mandarin for example, as one of the most spoken languages in the world makes a person an attractive hire. With fewer people being able to speak Mandarin in the west, learning the language will give you an advantage later in the business world. Yes, Mandarin is a difficult language to learn for Westerners, but the learning difficulty does not apply to young children as they are still developing their primary language skills. Given this, teachers who are skilled enough to implement bilingual education are not just needed, but sought-after.
What Are the Advantages to Bilingualism?
There are so many advantages to Bilingualism, may it be mental or professional. Studies suggest that practicing bilingualism at an early age may have long-lasting benefits.
The 4 common advantages of Bilingualism are as follows:
1. Increased cognitive function Bilingualism has cognitive benefits - from getting good test results to health benefits. It is evident that Bilingualism is important. The following are a few of the cognitive benefits of Bilingualism.
Increased ability to solve problems, think creatively and recognize patterns
Improved academic performance
Enhanced linguistic awareness and understanding of an individual's native language
Increased ability to apply concepts to novel situations
Delayed development, or increased resistance to, dementia
Improved focus and decision-making
2. Improved cultural and social skills
The ability to speak more than one language is the common characteristic of Bilingualism, but there is more to it. It gives a multicultural aspect through learning the interpersonal interactions that constitutes revamping a person’s individual interactive soft skills. Students that are exposed to two or more languages develop awareness on the differences of cultures.
Students’ emotional intelligence and the ability to empathize with others are greatly increased upon indulging in Bilingual education where students gain the ability to relate and connect efficiently with people that have different cultural backgrounds. In effect, this gives students the sense of realization that they are not only able to exist in a single culture but can also connect with others.
Like many other languages, learning Mandarin gives students the leverage to connect with other Chinese cultures on a more personal level such as literature, music, arts, customs, traditions, and more, not to mention being able to better socialize with and understand Chinese friends and co-workers.
3. Economic advantages in the new global economy
It is surely a plus on being able to converse or connect using different languages especially when conducting business. According to studies, the demand for employees that have the ability to speak multiple languages or as we call the Bilingual employees rose to more than 150% in the years from 2010 to 2015. Bilingual college graduates are in high demand and most employees that are bilingual climb the corporate ladder in higher levels. The benefits of hiring bilingual employees in a corporate setting include:
Improved ability to conduct business in other countries
Enhanced ability to engage suppliers or contractors from specific language backgrounds
Increased expansion of existing business conducted in other countries
Students that are involved in bilingual education programs possess a vast amount of options and opportunities in the field of professional development.
Going back to our example, being able to speak Mandarin to over one billion people gives a person an advantage in the job marketplace. Of course, this includes companies in China and other Mandarin-speaking countries that you can apply to. Not just as an employee, but also in terms of business.
4. Improved memory and recall abilities
As the need to process multiple languages simultaneously, it greatly contributes to the improvement of a person’s memory. Activation of the human brain through managing two languages simultaneously is an exercise for the brain itself and gives a boosting effect which gives the following changes:
Improved overall brain function and health
Increased gray matter volume and density
Improved executive function
Strengthened connections between neurons
Like many other languages, Mandarin characters and accents are very different than English. It’ll challenge your mind and you’ll find yourself stimulated by the new knowledge you’re accumulating, which has been thought to improve memory and mental ability.
The academic and cognitive benefits of learning Mandarin are another good reason to learn the language. It stimulates more parts of the learner’s brain because it’s widely different than learning English sounds, tones, and scripts.
Speakers of Mandarin use more of their brains more of the time, unlike English speakers who tend to alternate between left and right hemispheres. In theory, this more balanced brain could lead to greater overall creativity, enhanced problem-solving, and increased emotional intelligence. It is clear, therefore, that bilingual education greatly benefits everyone as it is not only the ability to speak more than one language but also greatly affects us mentally and socially. Having said that, it is truly encouraged to implement bilingual education for our children to be able to keep up with an ever-changing, ever more connected global society.