If statistics are correct, over half of you speak more than one language. It is estimated that about 60% of the world speaks at least two languages. I think this is one of the coolest parts about growing up bicultural, or internationally. All over the internet there are facts and stats about the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual. I agree with this 100%. I grew up in Uruguay, South America speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. I (formally) learned French in school, and can count to ten in seven languages thanks to my international, multilingual friends. I admit I am a language fanatic and get giddy when I overhear people speaking a different language, wanting to know what they’re saying and to be able to talk to them.
Language is ultimately all about connection. When someone speaks your heart language (the language you grew up hearing, the language you are loved the most in, the language that your mom speaks, often…) they are connecting with you in a more intimate way than if they communicated in a language you are learning. You may be able to identify with this if you have ever been overseas, away from home and surrounded by natives who are going on and on all around you in words you don’t understand. It’s a swirling mess and you feel confused and overwhelmed. In the midst of all that, if you hear even a word in English (or whatever your heart language is), you feel at peace and an instant connection to that (however random) individual.
I don’t think people realize what a gift it is to be bilingual. For more than just appearances and the “cool factor” it may bring, knowing more than one language can be extremely beneficial.
First of all, bilingualism can increase cognitive and developmental abilities. (Read: bilingualism makes you smarter). Not that monolinguals don’t have a fair chance, but think about it! If you speak two languages, or more, your brains capacity to retain information, to process the world, to understand other people is drastically increased. I don’t understand why school systems in the United States don’t make this more of a priority. Language learning is more than just social status, it can better your life.
Bilingualism opens doors all over the world. One thing I mentioned before was connecting. Connections and networking are quickly becoming the most important factor in finding jobs, and in building our lives. In a room of 100 people only five would be native english speakers. This means that if you only speak one language, your learning pool is limited to 5% of it’s maximum capacity. I believe we were put on earth for connection! We are relational beings, and so being able to interact and connect with people in their heart language only makes that relationality more genuine and more beautiful.
Bilingualism contributes heavily to our cross-cultural understanding and compassion. In a world where we are all necessary parts in creating community and bettering our environment, it is essential to be aware of other people different from ourselves, and to be able to understand their hearts and where they are coming from.
I hope to continue growing and learning in this aspect of life, and am excited to go places and be able to connect with different people, speaking different languages, and to see what they can teach me about love, life, and relationships.
Check out this TED Talk and see why it’s never too late to learn something new!
Do you have a language that you want to learn? Do you have any stories from how knowing a different language has helped you connect with someone else?