Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual Or Multilingual

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'Love in less-common languages' photo (c) 2011, Quinn Dombrowski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m preparing a series of lessons for my Intermediate English students highlighting the advantages to being bilingual (I’ll share them here once they’re done). I think they’ll provide some good positive reinforcement. I thought readers might find it useful to see the few resources I’ve identified, and hope you can suggest others.

In a related issue,e very so often I’ll have a student who says they’re not very interested in learning English because they’re going back to Mexico as soon as possible. My usual response, which has been pretty effective, is that the student is likely to get a better-paying job there if he/she knows English, too. That position makes sense to me and, usually, to the student, who then tends to become more serious about learning English. I have gotten anecdotal evidence from English teachers in Mexico that this statement is true, but had never been able to find any concrete evidence to back it up.

Until recently.

The Guardian ran a story on research showing that knowing English increased your income by 25% in five countries in the developing world.

Mexico wasn’t one of the countries started, but just being able to show this kind of data to my students will be helpful.

You might also be interested in The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual Or Multilingual.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual:

The Wall Street Journal reports on new research that shows speaking a second language helps mitigate the consequences of dementia. Now, obviously teenagers have challenges thinking long-term. But this kind of info certainly can’t hurt.

An article Education Week provides additional information on this research. It’s headlined Science Grows on Acquiring New Language.

Languages smarten up your brain is the title of a column in the Guardian Weekly. It’s a summary of a report detailing research results that show learning a second language contributes to improved problem-solving and decision-making abilities, among other advantages. The full report can be found here.

Voxy has produced a great infographic titled Why It Pays To Be Bilingual.

Being bilingual may delay Alzheimer’s and boost brain power is a very interesting article from The Guardian. Here’s a short excerpt:

Another study of bilingual people carried out by Judith Kroll, a psychologist at Penn State University, supported the idea that speaking more than one language keeps the brain in shape and bolsters mental function. She found that bilingual speakers could outperform single-language speakers in mental tasks such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on important details. Bilinguals were also better at prioritising and multi-tasking, she said.

“We would probably refer to most of these cognitive advantages as multi-tasking,” said Kroll. “Bilinguals seem to be better at this type of perspective-taking.”

Juggling Languages Can Build Better Brains comes from Science Daily.

Bilingualism good for the brain, researchers say is from the Los Angeles Times.

How the Bilingual Brain Copes With Aging: As Brain Power Decreases, Older Adults Find New Ways to Compute Language is a report from The Science Daily.

The Bilingual Advantage is a great New York Times column about…the advantages of being bilingual.

Bilingual Immigrants Report Better Health Than Speakers of One Language is the headline on a report about a Stanford study. Here’s an excerpt:

Healthy individuals who immigrate to the U.S. often see their health decline over time. A recent study from Stanford University suggests that immigrants who learn English while maintaining their native language might be protected against this puzzling phenomenon.

Ariela Schachter, a Ph.D. student in sociology, examined the correlation between English and native-language proficiency and Asian and Latino immigrants’ self-reported health status. The results, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, showed that people who are proficient at both English and their native language report better health than do speakers of just one language.

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter is from The New York Times.

Being Bilingual Has Benefits Beyond Language is from NPR.

Neuroscience and the Bilingual Brain is by Judy Willis at Edutopia.

Bilingual Children Switch Tasks Faster Than Speakers of a Single Language is a report on a new study. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning The Advantages To Being Bilingual.

Being Bilingual Wards Off Symptoms of Dementia is a report on another study.

Thinking In A Second Language Makes You A Better Decision-Maker

“Bilingualism Fine-Tunes Hearing, Enhances Attention”

“Bilingualism Across The U.S.”

The Benefits of Being Bilingual is a new column by Jonah Lehrer at Wired that provides a good overview of recent research on the topic.

I’ve previously posted about this study that showed Being Bilingual Boosts Brainpower, but Breaking News English has actually made it into a lesson accessible to English Language Learners.

Educators once opposed raising bilingual children. Experts now say it’s beneficial. is from The Washington Post.

Bilingualism ‘Can Increase Mental Agility’ is the headline of an article about a new study that reaffirms a lot of previous research. This is how it begins:

Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The Value Of Learning A Second (or Third) Language

Language Learning Makes the Brain Grow, Swedish Study Suggests is from Science Daily.

The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual is from The Dana Foundation.

Bilingual Brains – Smarter & Faster is by Judy Willis.

Reasoning Is Sharper in a Foreign Language is from Scientific American.

Mapping The Bilingual Brain is from Radio Lab.

Bilinguals Have Faster, More Adaptive Brains When They Get Older, Study Finds is from ABC News.

Here’s news from Scientific American:

Learning a new language can grow one’s perspective. Now scientists find that learning languages grows parts of the brain.

Scientists studied the brains of students in the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, who are required to learn new languages at an alarmingly fast rate. Many must become fluent in Arabic, Russian and the Persian dialect Dari in just 13 months. The researchers compared the brains of these students to the brains of medical students who also have to learn a tremendous amount in a very short period of time, but without the focus on languages.

The brains of the language learners exhibited significant new growth in the hippocampus and in parts of the cerebral cortex. The medical students’ brains showed no observed growth.

Infographic: “Integration & Immigration Reform”

Understanding How the Brain Speaks Two Languages is from TIME Magazine.

Here’s a video from ABC News (that might not be able to be viewed in an RSS Reader):

inspire language learningLearn English with Kaplan

Why It Makes More Sense Than You Know to Learn a Second Language is from The Huffington Post.

The Bilingual Brain is a pretty interesting piece from Brain Facts (including images of brain scans).

Think Twice, Speak Once: Bilinguals Process Both Languages Simultaneously is from Science Daily.

The Benefits Of Learning Languages is an excellent lesson plan from Film-English.

Speaking a Second Language May Delay Different Dementias is a report on a new study.

Sean Banville’s great website Breaking News English has three good lessons on the importance of being bilingual:

Can learning another language keep your brain healthier?

Being Bilingual Boosts Brainpower

Half of Europe’s citizens are bilingual

American Academy of Pediatrics Endorses Myth-Busting Report on Multilingualism is from Education Week.

How the Brain Benefits from Being Bilingual
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

What is a foreign language worth? is from The Economist.

Learning a second language in adulthood can slow brain ageing is from The Telegraph.


Quote Of The Day: The Benefits Of Adults Learning A New Language

Why Being Bilingual Makes You Smart Infographic - Yew Chung International School BeijingCompiled by: Yew Chung International School Beijing

Additional suggestions are welcome.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Larry – I wanted to reach out on behalf of the entire Voxy team and say thanks for including our “Why It Pays To Be Bilingual” infographic on this list! Glad to hear that you’re talking to your students about the advantages of bilingualism, too. There are indeed quite a few.

    Cheers,
    Theresa

  2. Hello Larry,
    a penfriend of mine who teaches German at a university in Jekaterinenburg, Russia, has lately asked me to write her a paper about the importance of the knowledge of a second language.
    I’ve also involved my students with this task. We’ve without any doubt come to the conlcusion that for us here in Switzerland the knowledge of languages represent the equivalent of natural resources; without them we are lost! How to you want to get a job in the IT sector, tourism, in a bank or in an international company without any English?
    Of course, learning and practising a language keeps our brains also active but above this, it makes contact with people form other cultures and countries easier and it certainly helps to understand them better.
    I hope that it is true what is said about Alzheimer and dementia because I’ve read these days that the origin of Alhzeimer may be in the liver and not in the brain!
    All the best Martina

  3. Hi Larry,
    It’s nice to know that learning a second language helps you to keep your brain safe. Just one more thing. How does being bilingual help to learn a new language?. Thank you!

    Carme

  4. Pingback: Rationale for World Languages | World Language Teacher

  5. Being bilingual gives you some kind of freedom. Sometimes you may feel like talking to no one, but by means of your mother tongue you probably throw out your very first thoughts and all of a sudden you are relieved. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s good to be bilingual and it helps a lot.
    Thanks a lot for everything.
    Ana

  6. Pingback: World Language Rationale « megustanpinguinos

  7. Larry: I think you have a type here.
    (I’ll them here once they’re done)
    Keep up the good work.
    Dr.Doug

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