Someone once asked me not long ago “what are the benefits of bilingualism nowadays?” I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and I was only able to stop talking after I realized I was short of breath because I was not breathing whilst answering the fellow.
I live in a country that is surrounded by French-speaking countries and was baffled by the question! The human brain as it is has been proved countless times to possess the ability to multitask and quickly evolve, thus making it easier for it to assimilate different languages at the same time.
Many researchers have talked extensively about the benefits for children to become bilingual. The volatile political situation in the world and especially in Africa should really make us think outside of the box when it comes to the education of our children.
The exposure from being bi or multilingual has both social and economic values that cannot be overlooked. With the Economic Committee Of West African States (ECOWAS) trying to implement the free flow of goods and humans in the African sub-region, how does one move around confidently without having an extra language in their intellectual baggage?
As earlier said, the cognitive effects of children are amazing as they are able to switch from one language to the other, allowing them to multitask and develop a strong attention span. So yes, if a majority of Ghanaian children, for example, can speak more than two local dialects, then sure they can speak another international language if it is prioritized at an early stage. May I also inform that according to studies, bilingualism can diminish the risk of stroke and also reduce or slow down the risk of losing cognitive abilities in older persons? Children that have been introduced to one or more languages at a tender age tend to adapt quickly to different kinds of environment and changes in their lives.
Being bilingual gives you an advantage in your education and future endeavors. Languages nowadays are highly valued at our various workplaces; most companies place a priority on languages especially the international ones. Communication has become so important in our fast-growing sectors such as tourism, journalism, and thus making it very competitive to bilingual peers; may I also add that translators at the UN organizations are making the big bucks and getting various perks even though they might not be as much as qualified as the monolingual, no disrespect, just stating the obvious.
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Dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases are all linked to our brain deficiencies, but researchers have once again found that bilingual folks are at lesser risks in catching those two diseases.
This quote by Charlemagne: “To have another language is to possess a second soul”, is proven right when I travel to a French-speaking country and I am able to blend so easily to their way of life and their culture because of my bilingualism. I speak, read and write both English and French fluently and realize that this ability adds a lot to my open-mindedness, I wish I spoke another international language.
Anyway, the proliferation of tour guides and small language dictionaries has made it is easy to go to other countries without speaking their languages, but could you imagine the unique experience you could missing just because you cannot actually speak that language. If you were able to speak their language be it local or international; you could immerse yourself in their culture…
I cannot describe the exhilarating joy that floods my heart when I am able to communicate with a French national in the marketplace who is having a hard time communicating with a Ghanaian (that doesn’t understand them); the ability to meet new people and make friends is immeasurable.
Another amazing benefit of bilingualism is also the ability to easily learn new languages faster than the monolingual. Why don’t you try and get your child to learn another language next time or better yet why don’t you get some language classes during your next work leave or school break, you can thank yourself later.
Source: Ithel Edzi-Babanawo
Oral Ofori is Founder and Publisher at www.TheAfricanDream.net, a digital storyteller and producer, and also an information and research consultant.