The number of individuals with bilingual skills has been steadily increasing in recent decades, partly due to a shifting of the population across the world. Today, bilingual individuals outnumber monolinguals, and it is believed that the number of bilingual speakers will continue to increase in the coming years.
However, and contrary to popular belief, being bilingual does not mean that an individual has absolute mastery of two languages. Few individuals are equally knowledgeable in each language and do not utilize them with the same frequency or in the same situations, but still may enjoy the the benefits that come along with speaking more than one language.
This is because bilingualism includes a large range of proficiencies and contexts. Individuals with varying skills are categorized as bilingual regardless of their overall ability to utilize the language.
For example, a sequential bilingual is a speaker who becomes bilingual by first learning one language and then another, while a circumstantial bilingual is an individual who was forced by circumstances such as for political reasons, a better economic situation, immigration, or shifting borders to become bilingual because their native language is not the national language. In the United States, for instance, circumstantial bilinguals have been partly the result of colonization in regards to the tribal lands of the Native Americans and also in terms of immigration populations, like the Latino population and others who have come to reside in the U.S. for better economic opportunities and other reasons over many decades.
Researchers over the last century have confirmed definite advantages of bilingualism in cognitive areas. There are studies have illustrated advantages to being bilingual with respect to cognitive flexibility, metalinguistic awareness and abilities, communicative sensitivity, concept formation. Furthermore, bilingualism has been credited as a factor in delaying age-related diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In summary, there are many benefits of bilingualism that can, not only enrich one’s knowledge, but also result in better health, increased awareness and a richer life.
At Down to Earth Spanish we offer a variety of self-pace courses that include videos, audios, digital downloads and more to help you in your language learning journey. The bottom line is, whether you are young or old, it is never too late to learn a new language.