Science Has Spoken: Bilinguals Have Faster Brains
With over 10 percent of the U.S. population being able to speak Spanish and a rapidly growing Hispanic population overall, there is no doubt that being bilingual is a clear competitive advantage in today's job market.
However, there is now also evidence that having a bilingual employee can be a plus to any team, and that dual-language speakers may be faster thinkers and more productive, even in roles that don't necessarily require them to utilize their second language.
A study conducted by Northwestern University and the University of Houston and published in the journal Brain and Language in 2014 found that bilinguals were more efficient at making linguistic and visual connections, possibly because of the mental acuity required to constantly balance two competing vocabularies.
Both bilingual and monolingual participants in the study were asked to pair an English word with its matching illustration while hooked up to an MRI machine that monitored their brains' blood flow. The results showed that bilinguals utilized fewer brain functions to make the correct connection, and thus were able to do it with less effort.
"The bilingual has to lift more weight than the monolingual, because bilinguals experience competition within and between both their languages while listening to speech," the researchers told Live Science. "But the bilingual is also stronger, because they've been mentally 'working out' like this for their whole life."
Another study, published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics, observed strengthening neural connections between different parts of the brain in people who underwent language training.
According to the researchers, bilinguals become more adept at blocking out unnecessary, confusing, or distracting signifiers, creating the sharper thinking skills essential in multitasking.
Another asset employers are recognizing in bilingual employees is their willingness to learn and experiment with something outside their comfort zone.
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