Laughter is the Best Medicine

The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli

¿Hablas español? Parlez-vous français?
你会说中文吗? If you answered, “sí,” “oui,” or “会”
and you’re watching this in English, chances are you belong to the world’s
bilingual and multilingual majority. And besides having
an easier time traveling or watching movies without subtitles, knowing two or more languages
means that your brain may actually look and work differently
than those of your monolingual friends. So what does it really
mean to know a language? Language ability is typically measured
in two active parts, speaking and writing, and two passive parts,
listening and reading. While a balanced bilingual has near equal abilities across the board
in two languages, most bilinguals around the world
know and use their languages in varying proportions. And depending on their situation
and how they acquired each language, they can be classified into
three general types. For example, let’s take Gabriella, whose family immigrates to the US
from Peru when she’s two-years old. As a compound bilingual, Gabriella develops two linguistic
codes simultaneously, with a single set of concepts, learning both English and Spanish as she begins to process
the world around her. Her teenage brother, on the other hand,
might be a coordinate bilingual, working with two sets of concepts, learning English in school, while continuing to speak Spanish
at home and with friends. Finally, Gabriella’s parents are likely
to be subordinate bilinguals who learn a secondary language by filtering it through
their primary language. Because all types of bilingual people
can become fully proficient in a language regardless of accent or pronunciation, the difference may not be apparent
to a casual observer. But recent advances
in brain imaging technology have given neurolinguists a glimpse into how specific aspects of language
learning affect the bilingual brain. It’s well known that the brain’s
left hemisphere is more dominant and analytical in logical processes, while the right hemisphere is more active
in emotional and social ones, though this is a matter of degree,
not an absolute split. The fact that language involves
both types of functions while lateralization develops
gradually with age, has lead to the critical
period hypothesis. According to this theory, children learn languages more easily because the plasticity
of their developing brains lets them use both hemispheres
in language acquisition, while in most adults, language
is lateralized to one hemisphere, usually the left. If this is true, learning a language
in childhood may give you a more holistic grasp
of its social and emotional contexts. Conversely, recent research showed that people who learned
a second language in adulthood exhibit less emotional bias
and a more rational approach when confronting problems
in the second language than in their native one. But regardless of when you acquire
additional languages, being multilingual gives your brain
some remarkable advantages. Some of these are even visible, such as higher density of the grey matter that contains most of your brain’s
neurons and synapses, and more activity in certain regions
when engaging a second language. The heightened workout a bilingual
brain receives throughout its life can also help delay the onset of diseases,
like Alzheimer’s and dementia by as much as five years. The idea of major cognitive
benefits to bilingualism may seem intuitive now, but it would have surprised
earlier experts. Before the 1960s, bilingualism
was considered a handicap that slowed a child’s development by forcing them to spend too much energy
distinguishing between languages, a view based largely on flawed studies. And while a more recent study did show that reaction times and errors increase
for some bilingual students in cross-language tests, it also showed that the effort
and attention needed to switch between languages
triggered more activity in, and potentially strengthened,
the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain
that plays a large role in executive function, problem solving,
switching between tasks, and focusing while filtering out
irrelevant information. So, while bilingualism may not
necessarily make you smarter, it does make your brain more healthy,
complex and actively engaged, and even if you didn’t have
the good fortune of learning a second language as a child, it’s never too late to do
yourself a favor and make the linguistic
leap from, “Hello,” to, “Hola,” “Bonjour” or “你好’s” because when it comes to our brains
a little exercise can go a long way.

100 thoughts on “The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli

  1. Am I the only person who grew up speaking two languages as one, and then had to learn how to seperate the two in school? I didn't even know Chinglish wasn't a language

  2. I am Korean learning Dutch n clicked this video to motivate myself.the more I study Dutch, the more I lose my English 🙄 I feel like I speak ‘0’ language now urghhhh

  3. I spreche 6 Sprache.Dafur bin ich sehr sufrieden
    I can speak 6 languages and I am proud of it
    Eu falo 6 línguas e por isso me sinto feliz
    Io parlo 6 lingue e por questo io me sinto molto felice
    Yo hablo 6 idiomas y po eso me siento muy feliz
    Je parle 6 langues c' est pour quoi je me sens très hereux

  4. My mother tongue is persian , ive been studying english for more than 8 years from 9 year old till now , im i can speak turkish like my mothertongue ,
    Im learning french and studying japanese and they teach us arabic at school . Which category im in now ?! 😕😕

  5. But i mean how many multilingual people are actually at a naitive or highly fluent level in all three or more languages? I know tons of people that can write univeristy level literature essays in two languages, but not a single one that can do it in three or more.

  6. In India almost everyone is multilingual, they learn their mother tongue (State language) , their National language (Hindi), and also International language (English).

  7. Study show in the next 20 years English will no longer be the most spoke language in the world Chinese 1 and Spanish 2 and 3 Arabic so by all mean I'm so my kids hopefully aleast 2 of these languages

  8. Vietnamese, but more fluent in english, ok at chinese, can understand japanese and respond, learning spanish 🙂

    but billingual bc im not fully fluent in anything else apart frum viet and english

  9. Many Americans and people around the world are already bilingual they speak Japanese example Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Nintendo, Canon, Nikon, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Naruto, Pikachu, etc,.

  10. I did an experiment that I study spanish and japanese at the same times. And I study one hour spanish followed by an hour of japanese. This caused me a trouble. I always mixed up those volcabulary and grammer together. And say something that both language speaker dont understand.

  11. I hate when you hear people speaking English with a Spanish accent and then people will make fun of them bc they speak it with a Spanish accent. I can't help but ask these people, hey how many languages are YOU fluent in??? That pretty much shuts them up.

  12. You realize that you are full bilingual after watching and understanding a movie for 30 minutes before realizing that is not in your native language

  13. Ako ste Srbin, Hrvat, Bošnjak ili Milog…ovaj Crnogorac, automatski znate 4 jezika. Na Balkanu su svi poliglote!

    If you are Serbian, Croat, Bosniak or Milog … hm Montenegrin, you automatically know 4 languages. In the Balkans, everyone is polyglot!

  14. My son is 1 year old and speaks lots of words in Spanish, Swedish and understands lots of questions in English. Proud mamma.

  15. school taught me my ABCDs but i learned English the most from watching badly dubbed animes and that's why i have no emotion when i'm speaking English lol

  16. Also wenn mir kein Wort einfällt, I'll just switch to English. But ich denke nicht that I'm Billingual.Because every Schüler in Germany lernt in der Schule Englisch und that's why it's not an außergewöhnlich thing German und English zu sprechen.Daswidania!

  17. I’m currently learning a second language and I honestly have so much respect for everyone who can speak more than one. It’s not easy and it takes time. So to all those that can I respect you and admire you!!!!

  18. I ended up learning to speak Spanish when I got a job right down the street from where I used to live in a Mexican restaurant. Everyone was an illegal alien from Mexico except boss who had papers to be in the United States so to work there I learned to speak there language. I remember my brain would feel tingly Everytime I got home.

  19. I'm 21 i speak 5 languages and i really think it's problematic, cuz i keep forgetting how to say words in the appropriate language so i keep rushing my speech and end up using way too much filler words.
    So i think scientists before the 60s had a point after all.

  20. I'm a trilingual brain, my mother language (portuguese), german and english…and it is a complete mess! Sometimes I forget the word in my own language because can only figure it in the other one or even the other two. But in the long run I think it's good.

  21. One thing that’s crazy about me is that sometimes I can understand what people are talking about in different languages, without even knowing any other language than English

  22. I learned english in school (the basics) but then i studied the rest with reading and developing a native accent through listening to American movies . I also know korean through youtube for the basics and the rest i just watched a lot of korean dramas to catch phrases and the accent as well

  23. I speak 4 languages, Spanish (native), English, Portuguese, french. Here in Honduras you have to learn many things to go out of this poor and destroyed country. Rich people don't need to learn anything.

  24. Who else does the thing where you're speaking your mother tongue but have to dip in to your second or third language for phrases? (I'm from Montreal where pretty much everyone does this)

  25. I believe learning a second language as Gabriela’s brother and being involved in the new language environment (full of native slang speakers) can be sometimes emotionally detrimental because of an evident skills gap.

  26. The most annoying thing that can happen to a bilingual speaker is to forget the flipping word in both languages 😂😂😂😂 you kind of feel the word, can sense it but you had a brain fart and you start to describe the meaning of the word and other listener has to guess it ROFL

  27. Disagree because you get smarter when you acquire a new skill such as knowing how to speak another language and new language improves your vocabulary .

  28. What if you only know like a fraction of a language? Like I understand simple Spanish, would that still make me a bilingual or do you have to know basically a whole language?

  29. I speak three languages and all three i have to use really often and now the prob is, that sometimes i use trois languages ek hi phrase main and the person in front of me dont get it and that makes me frustrated.

  30. Here in India English is taught as a first language…so many ppl know English better than their actual mother tongue

  31. I actually know 5 languages: Turkish, Azerbaijani, English, French and Russia. It really helps me in my every daily life.

  32. When your second language becomes an everyday necessity and you are not gifted on language acquisition, then struggling becomes real, just like me now. I studied English for many many years and lived in an English speaking country for many years as well, and also I speak English every day. But still, I could not get a clear clue of how this language works, and most practically I could not pass these English examinations for testing non-English speaker's English level. How frustrating!

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