There are more bilingual and multilingual people ( click to download ) in the world than there are monolingual people. This may be difficult to believe if you live in many parts of the United States. Indeed, there’s that joke about bilingualism, multilingualism, and monolingualism which ends by saying that the latter can just be called, “American.”
Growing up elsewhere, it’s always been a source of fascination to me that many (White) Americans are often fascinated by people who speak multiple languages. In many cultures I grew up in or visited as a third culture kid, that was the norm; it is the norm.
Living in more monolingual spaces in the United States than not, has given me a great appreciation for multilingualism, as well as made me rethink the hegemony of the English language throughout the world. And while I don’t think anyone who speaks more than one language is a source of fascination, (I only start getting intrigued if you speak more than four and do so well.) I do think speaking more than one language makes you get a lot more out of life for a number of reasons:
Speaking more than one language automatically means that you have access to more than one culture. Of course one language can give you access to more than one culture too. So if that is true, think of what two or more can do for you?
In my experience and the experience of other multilingual or bilingual people I know, you tend to adapt easily to new environments. This is because for you, the learning process of picking up the language – including the colloquialisms – is seen as a source of survival.
You tend to have a better understand of intercultural differences and the nuances of different subcultures within an entire culture. This basically means that seeing things through multiple perspectives is a more default experience for you.
You approach life the same way you approach(ed) learning new languages: That you’re going to make some mistakes but doing so is better than not trying at all. Moreover, speaking more than one language has taught you something about perfection in language and otherwise (that monolingual people often miss): It is impossible to perfectly grasp any one single language. Progress, however, is attainable.
Science says that bilingual and multilingual people have stronger thinking skills. This is due to higher levels of cognitive brain function that comes from switching from one language to the next. The same research has also suggests that you are more likely to be protected against Alzheimer’s disease.
You will likely better understand more of the diversity the world has to offer than monolingual people. From music to literature to jokes (that translation can have an adverse effect on), you will simply just get to participate in more of the world because of your bilingualism or multilingualism.
You’ll have a way more complex personality and identity because language and culture affects those things. I notice this in myself and among others even when I’m engaging in just mere dialects and certainly in different languages. For example, I’ve always noticed how I become more dramatic and jovial when I’m conversing in African languages. When I speak French however, (probably due to my lack of regular practice) I am much more reserved.
You tend to approach new things with curiosity rather than fear. Whether it’s participating in facets of culture that are new or irregular or meeting people you’ve never encountered, multilingual people tend to be more keen to know, rather than to distinguish.
You take more risks from travel and living choices, to trying new foods or learning new things. Because language and culture are intertwined, speaking more than one language tends to make you less afraid to just pack up and go to wherever your heart is calling or do something different if you feel your life needs a change.
You’re probably more creative when it comes to work, hobbies, and life situations in general. Not only are you more likely to enjoy a greater diversity of things, you are more likely to create new and interesting ideas or to mix things up in new and different ways, if the environment allows for it of course. A minor example from my personal life: The “root” for most of my passwords is a combination of words from three languages. It’s pretty much impossible to crack.
In being multilingual, you become a certain kind of personification of cultural dynamicity and exchange. You’ll always have access to what it’s like to be an outsider looking in, as well as an insider looking out. And well, it kind of makes you understand the importance of making other people know that it’s okay to be different; and that they are never alone in their difference.