6 Pros and Cons of Bilingualism

Language is one of the most beautiful things in this world and knowing how to speak more than one is a benefit, according to science. Research has shown that being bilingual makes people a lot smarter because the brain is a lot more active and learning a new language improves cognitive skills. On top of that, studies have shown that it delays the onset of dementia. That’s pretty neat, but does it come with a set of disadvantages as well?

List of Pros of Bilingualism

1. Bilingual individuals are sharper thinkers.
Irish playwright Samuel Beckett wrote his drafts in French then translated them to English. For him, this was a way to force him out of his usual writing style. Using another language for drafts allowed him to be more critical and aware of his writing.

University of Chicago researchers wondered if bilingual people are really sharper thinkers. Their study showed that those who do speak more than one language are less biased when making decisions and are sharper when it comes to making choices when it comes to style and selection of vocabulary.

2. Bilingual individuals have a better working memory.
A York University researcher called Ellen Bialystok and her team wanted to know whether bilingual speakers had certain advantages when it came to mental processing. They found the bilinguals were quicker when switching their attention while multi-tasking and were better at paying attention.

3. Bilingual individuals have more gray matter.
Gray matter helps process information received and is useful for intellectual activity, and the more you have of it the better. Georgetown University researchers found that bilinguals who spoke Spanish and English had more gray matter than those who used English and American Sign Language. Researchers have considered the management of two spoken languages as crucial in the growth of gray matter.

List of Cons of Bilingualism

1. The so-called “bilingual advantage” may not be real at all.
Studies that have gone deeper in investigating the advantages of bilingualism resulted in split. In short, it possibly means that arguing that being bilingual is an advantage may be overstated. However, some researchers don’t want to completely deny the bilingual advantage. They still believe it helps children develop better executive control functions and that it will benefit later in life. For instance, adults who speak more than one language can resist the effects of dementia better than monolinguals.

2. It was once thought as being harmful to verbal development.
Yes, this was a thing in the past. Not only was it considered harmful to verbal development, it was also argued to be harmful to IQ. A lot of things have changed since then and we have come to accept that being bilingual does have certain benefits although this has yet to be really shown in scientific research.

3. Bilingual speakers know fewer words of any semantic category.
It has been argued that bilinguals have a smaller vocabulary compared to monolinguals because of a reduced use of words specific to each language they know how to speak.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.