by Daniel Cubias
It’s good to be bi.
Wait, let’s try that intro again. You’ll have to forgive me. I’m not sufficiently bilingual to be dazzling all the time and avoid slip-ups, malapropisms, and brain freezes. In fact, if I spoke Spanish better, I would be a lot more confident of fighting off Alzheimer’s as I get older.
At least that’s the conclusion of “neuroscience researchers [who] are increasingly coming to a consensus that bilingualism has many positive consequences for the brain.”
Yes, scientists now think that speaking more than one language helps people become better multi-taskers, prioritize information more effectively, ignore distractions more easily, and ward off early symptoms of dementia as they age.
The reason is because, in the bilingual person’s brain, the “constant back-and-forth between two linguistic systems” adds up to a regular “mental workout that enhances the brain’s executive-control functions.”
It’s the same reason why people who do a lot of sit-ups are more likely to have six-pack abs. Basically, they exercise more.
The researchers are quick to point out that bilingual people don’t necessarily learn any better or faster than people who get by on just one language. But being fluent in multiple tongues “does keep the brain more nimble,” and the effects last for an entire lifetime.
It’s interesting, of course, that teaching kids to think in two languages has scientifically validated benefits. But of course, bilingual education is about as popular in America as Glen Beck is at a La Raza meeting.
Public schools are cutting back on bilingual education, and have been for a long time, in the belief that the children of immigrants learn English better when immersed in the new language all at once. There is some evidence for this viewpoint.
However, it’s also undeniable that political considerations have been the driving force in eliminating bilingual education. Too many Americans just don’t want to hear any other language, especially Spanish, at any time. And they certainly don’t want impressionable young children exposed to it.
The irony is that one of the best things we can do for American kids, in theory at least, is introduce them to languages other than English. As such, perhaps ending the political gamesmanship — where one side wins and the other loses — is the best way to approach bilingual education. Maybe we can rework it for the modern world, reshape it into something that benefits all children.
You know what I’m saying? Sorry, let me rephrase that.
To learn more about Daniel, visit Hispanic Fanatic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.