By Sarah McAllister, Head of Marketing (New Business), Linguaphone Group
If life today had to be described by one term, hyper-communication would be it. Technological innovation has been the primary medium by which we’ve got to this stage, but the focus and result of it all seems pretty much entirely information-based and communication-orientated.
Bilingualism was always going to occupy a central position in this new kind of world, a world that allows for real time contact between people, wherever they are, at any given point in time. After all, languages are what we use to communicate.
As our world becomes defined increasingly by networking structures and communication itself, it’s the most dexterous communicators who’ll become key-players in these new ‘global societies’.
1. Language is Culture – Multilingualism is the Norm
Recent research has found that approximately two thirds of all children in the world today are growing up in a bilingual environment.
In many societies, it’s been a tradition to know multiple languages for a long time – but today, we have increased mobility, more contact and far more cultural exchange. This means that those who don’t possess enough language skills may find themselves at more of a disadvantage than they may have done in any other age and time.
It’s important to recognise what language is: A medium for delivering how we see the world, for expressing our opinions, for describing things, and an absolutely essential ingredient for successful collaboration. Language gives meaning to things and enables understanding between people. In other words, language is the bedrock of all society and human interaction. The more people you are able to talk to, the richer your world becomes.
As words are what carry the meaning, learning to speak another language fluently will not only enhance your capacity for communicating with a whole extra group of people – it will open your mind up to completely different ideas, structures, and cultural systems. In this sense, multilingualism cultivates flexible thinking and unique perspectives all round.
2. Multilingualism is Good for the Brain
It used to be said that the confusion of learning to speak more than one language at a time could cause problems for kids growing up in multilingual households, that it could be detrimental to the intellectual mastery and sophistication of any one language.
There is now solid evidence against this: Linguists and psychologists today state that disadvantages caused by confusion or interference when learning to speak are far outweighed by the positives of knowing another language fluently.
Multilingual speakers do have to do a lot of switching, but in fact, this is great for them. All this switching keeps the cognitive muscles in shape, improving capacity for maintaining focus and moving between different but important tasks in a way that monolingual speakers are likely to struggle with more.
3. Adults: It’s never too late to learn
Language learning is easier at a young age, this is common knowledge, but it shouldn’t put adults off trying to learn a language later on in life either. Research has shown that those who pick up the language books later exercise their grey matter in a way that helps to fend off the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia in old age.
On the other hand, if you’re already a multilingual speaker, why not keep going? Did you know that if you already know more than one language, learning more will be even easier?
It will also help your career. As business becomes increasingly border-less, the options for those who can culturally glide between locations and communicate effectively with whoever they’re introduced to, are growing by the day.
More than anything, if you’re a multilingual speaker, you should take advantage of your position as much as possible. Read and absorb as much as you can in your respective languages and consider how being able to process more than one system of meaning most definitely puts you at an advantage – whether socially, culturally, or in the business world.
4. Language Schools, Language Tools
From a business perspective, if you’re passionate about education and languages, there are few sectors so good to get into right now.
Today, people want to communicate with whoever they feel they can get along with or learn something from. Leading global language-learning organisations such as the Linguaphone Group are already taking notice of this by offering a range of master franchising options to entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. If there’s any industry that’s only going to increase in demand, it’s the world of linguistics – this is a great thing.