Advantages of being multilingual

16 January 2023

Child at chalkboard with languages

There are many advantages to being multilingual. If you have decided to raise a child bilingually or multilingually, they will benefit in many ways.

Naturally you will stumble across challenges every now and then. However, the most important message to remember is that whatever you can do to help your child learn your own or another language will be worth it.

If you’re having doubts about the value of raising a child bilingually or if you need a reminder of why you’re doing it, here’s an overview of some of the opportunities and advantages bilingualism can bring for your child.

  1. Communication skills
  2. Language learning improves communication skills in general. Multilinguals are more sensitive and responsive to the communicative expectations and needs of their conversation partners, because they are better at taking on other people’s perspectives.

  3. Cultural diversity
  4. Bilinguals are gifted with two worlds of experience instead of one. The best way to immerse in another culture and really connect with it, is to speak the language of that culture. On top of that, bilingual children can be a bridge between cultures and contribute to cross-cultural communication, as speaking the languages makes it easier for them to understand cultural differences.

  5. Flexibility and open-mindedness
  6. Bilingual children tend to be more tolerant and show higher levels of empathy. “Knowing more than one language helps children feel at ease in different environments. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability.” (Cunningham-Andersson, Andersson, 2004)

  7. Cognitive advantages
  8. Bilingualism does not only give you an advantage in terms of language skills. It enhances other cognitive functions as well. Bilinguals tend to be more creative; they are better able to focus and have an innate talent for multitasking and abstract thinking. They perform better at tasks that require conflict management and are likely to develop a higher level of metalinguistic awareness.

  9. Educational success1
  10. Bilingual children are generally more likely to finish secondary school2 and attend higher education3. They are also more likely to get hired for the job they applied for4. Listing more than one language on your resume is a nice bonus of being bilingual, isn’t it?

  11. Health advantages
  12. Several studies have shown that lifelong bilinguals are better protected from the symptoms of dementia5. On average, symptoms develop five years later in bilinguals.

1) Rumbaut, R. G. (2014). English Plus: Exploring the Socioeconomic Benefits of Bilingualism in Southern California (SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2440950). Social Science Re- search Network.
2) Feliciano, C. (2001). The Benefits of Biculturalism: Exposure to Immigrant Culture and Dropping out of School among Asian and Latino Youths. Social Science Quarterly, 82(4), 865–879.
3) Callahan, R. M. (2009). Latino Language-Minority College Going: Adolescent Boys’ Language Use and Girls’ Social Integration. Bilingual Research Journal, 31(1–2), 175–200.
4) Porras, D., Ee, J., & Gándara, P. (2014). Employer preferences: Do bilingual applicants and employees experience an advantage? In R. Callahan & P. Gándara (Eds.), The bilingual advantage language, literacy and the US labor market. Multilingual Matters, 236-262.
5) Alladi, S., Bak, T. H., Duggirala, V., Surampudi, B., Shailaja, M., Shukla, A. K., Chaudhuri, J. R., & Kaul, S. (2013). Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status. Neurology, 81(22), 1938.