While it's true that learning a second (or third!) language is significantly easier as a child, it's never too late to become multilingual. Over half of the world's population speaks more than one language, and they're reaping in some tremendous benefits.
Here are the reasons that being multilingual will improve your life and leave you wanting to run right over to Duolingo and start speaking a new language:
1. You'll be more successful in business
Speaking multiple languages has big effects on the parts of your brain responsible for executive function, meaning that they are better at tasks like planning and focus, which are great for business. Additionally, employers love seeing multilingual job candidates, as it improves their ability serve the global community.
2. It has huge benefits for your memory and dementia risk.
Compared to adults who only spoke one language, those who spoke at least two languages have been shown to stave off the effects of dementia for longer, likely because of boosts in working memory. Surprisingly, this even held true among those who were illiterate and had not experienced formal schooling, showing the power of multilingualism on the brain.
3. It makes you more attractive
Having an aire of mystery to you is a good way to make you seem more attractive, and speaking multiple languages does exactly that. You know about cultures and have the mental capacity to seamlessly switch from one language to another, which just goes to show how insanely hot it is to be smart.
4. It really does make you more intelligent.
Rather than just appear smarter, being multilingual actually does boost your brain's performance. When monitoring brain activity, researchers found that more areas light up when a multilingual person speaks, versus a monolingual individual. Speaking multiple languages also encourages problem-solving skills and increases pattern recognition as well.
5. It makes you more accepting of other cultures.
When learning a new language, you don't just pick up a new vocabulary and grammatical guidelines; you learn about the origins of the language and cultural context as well. Understanding a different culture breeds acceptance, which is critical for having a happier life.
6. You can connect to others better.
When you are able to communicate in multiple languages, it opens up the number of people you can connect to when traveling. In addition to making it easier to navigate in foreign countries, you increase the number of personal relationships you can make, enriching your experience.
7. Your creativity will get a boost.
8. You can express yourself more completely.
If you've ever been at a loss to describe your emotions perfectly, that feeling comes much less often to those who speak multiple languages. There are a number of words that exist in the world that don't have direct translations into English, and the meaning can get diluted trying to translate. If you are multilingual, you can get your point across much more efficiently.
[Header image: iStockphoto/XiXinXing]