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

  • I Speak portuguese cause is my native lenguage, and spanish i think this second lenguage the spanish i learn why i move to a spanish language country i think i talk something like 30% of spanish and i understand 35 or 40 %, i not dominate but i can talk basic things well in Spanish, and for be honest i think i talk 1 language in native way=the portuguese, 1 in a basic way= and 1 in a very minimal way= The english. I inprove my brain a lot since i learn another language i feel mory safety in my own mind and learning new cultures and i feel me more alive in a way of understanding and it inprove also my "autoestima", is a way more easy do some things =).Saludos!Saudacoes!One Love.💪🤛.

  • One of the problems of being multilingual is you mix up the language sometimes 😦
    I can speak English and somali, amharic and Arabic fluently

  • And if you know several different languages it sometimes allows you to mix them all together and create your own sociolect, that only your siblings or someone in the know can figure out, f.ex. "Jeg henter deg chai baje from the train station". That is both Norwegian, Urdu and English and a fully understandable coherent sentence. Translation I will pick you up at six o'clock from the train station.

  • I grew up in Romania so….here's my brain:
    I'm fluent in romanian and english. Been taught french and german at school the past 10 years. Also been studying japanese and korean at home by myself for the past 3 years….

    My brain: ☠☠☠

  • Being fluent in 4 languages as a teen really fucks up my brain. When you're asked to translate something or make a test in a certain language, you start thinking in another language and then your brain proceeds to brainfart, which then makes you forget how to actually word it. ( this even whilst you unsubconsciously do know it.)
    I don't know if that made sense… but thats just me lol. I don't know if you experience anything of that sort but if you do, feel free to let me know.

  • Wait..some people actually speak one language their entire life?! I might think like that because im european but wow i grew up talking four languages and two of them give me the ability to understand at least 5 more languages. i always thought its normal to know two languages.

  • do you ever want to say something to your friends in one language but just accidentally blurt it out in another language and they're just like what the heck

  • Im a Mexican american born and raised in the United states i was very fluent in English i married a lady in Mexico and after years of living in Mexico speaking more Spanish then English i started to forget and slowly started to have a difficult time speaking English when i did have someone to talk to in English . I even started to develop a stutter in my speach which is very frustrating. It sucks but love the fact that i understand both clearly.

  • I’m 19 n I can speak at least 4 languages
    1. Hindi (native)
    2. English(fluent)
    3.french (good/fluent)
    4.spanish (good)
    I’m really very happy that now I can watch movies in any language Though I learned some of the languages out of pressure but it’s benefiting me now and after watching this video I’m surely gonna indulge my kids in learning languages 🤣
    Next mission :- German

  • In India, although we have so many languages, in school english is usually our first language. Second is our regional language and third is french/spanish/sanskrit or it could be other languages depending on the school. We drop one language when we get into high school, either second language or third language.

  • I don't know if being good at learning languages is genetically inherited or not but in my family we are really good a learning foreign languages. I'm native speaker of Arabic but I speak other 3 languages ( French, English, urdu) .recently I started to watch Korean drama and I'm noticing that I can understand what they're saying without subtitles and I can't even introduce myself or know many words in Korean.the same thing is happening with 2 year old son last week he was telling me colors in English and Spanish. Maybe it has something with Genes

  • Me: Ah I don't remember how to say that word in <insert language>!
    Person: Then say it in the language in which you remember how to say it.
    Me: Ok, <insert word>
    Person: Yeah I don't know that one.

  • I fluently speak, read and write four languages, and I can understand several more, and I'm not unique in my country. I wonder how our brain looks – being polyglots, and if there are any additional benefits to being so… 🌷

  • By age 5, I was a pro in 4 languages- two of them classical languages of the world, one global connector and an North Indian local language that's irrelevant to my native classical languages. Tamil, Telugu, English and Hindi (except spoken Hindi) – now it's 9 in my 20s. 🙂

  • I'm from Indonesia and I apparently look Korean, so when I started to speak English in the school, people thought that I'm a foreigner :l

  • Who else has this thing where their ability to speak a certain secondary language fluctuates throughout the day? Like, when I'm tired in the morning I just cannot give someone accurate sentences and forget words 😂😂😂

  • Then we #maharashtrian speaks at least three language in our day to day life. Proud to be maharashtrian. Jay#maharashtra

  • When talking to people, there are moments that you wanna say some words which in your mind at that moment pop-up in different languages.
    I’ve been in the situation aaaaa lot!

  • Americans, listen. 3 languages is the norm for regular people in India. "Multilingual" is an expectation from a normal person. Stop with your "Bilingual" is genius nonsense.

  • My husband and I became bilingual about 25 to 30 years ago so we both speak in Spanish when with spanish speakers and in English when with English speakers BUT WE SPEAK SPANGLISH WHEN ALONE TOGETHER .

  • I am multilingual, I am fluent in Russian and English and I can understand Arabic, persian while my native language is kurdish and currently learning Spanish.

  • I speak English , French , Spanish ,Turkish and Arabic. At the beginning It was very easy but than each of the 5 languages interrupts the other and my brain writes error 404

  • I want to Learn Aramaic Jesus Christ language.Thats my goal.I know Spanish and English.I learned one sentence in Hebrew the other day.

  • Hey, my name is Syarifah. I speak Acehnese and Bataknese (peu haba and apa kau) when I was young. I speak English, Turkish, and Germany when I was in Senior High School. But now, back again I only speak Indonesia as origin. Damn, I am so f*cking tired with these languages.

  • Speaking frensh ,arabic and english but sometimes they think i show off but the truth is i forget the words in my native language and sometimes i do some sentences with two or more language , so since my childhood i started to stop and control myself to not speak this way because even if i tell them the reason they really keep thinking that im showing off
    So iam learning le japonais

  • I am Chinese born in the US and grew up knowing Chinese Cantonese. I was born speaking Chinese kinda but when I started school I learned English and Chinese got bad. At first I feel like it was Chinglish to my family. As I got older I always knew what people were saying but sometimes almost can't say anything back. Before I say something I have to figure out what to say because rarely will I speak it.

  • I know Greek and English. Is there anyone else that forgets how to translate even the most simple words of their language, simply because they use the word from their other language too often?

  • I speak 4 languages fluently and when i’m on the phone with my best friend, we sometimes speak 3 different languages in the 1 sentence

  • I have a korean tutor, and she asked if I understood and I said ‘oui’ and she looked at me weirdly 😂 she was so confused

  • I catch my self translating every thing I hear ( English to Spanish or vice versa) and when it’s time to speak I kinda catch my self talking backwards (incorrect order) in either languages…

  • i remember when i knew what the word bitter was in my parents language but I just could not understand what it was in English and it was so frustrating because I couldn’t explain to my friends what the word was or whatever

  • The hardest part of being bilingual for me is when you’re talking to someone in one language and they ask you to speak in a different one. Like I know how to speak in both but it feels so awkward to switch. I always find myself giggling.

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