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We all hear how important it is to know more than one language. We spend years in high school and college, whether out of necessity or intrigue, shaping a new cultural background. Some of us even revel in the opportunity to speak our newfound language, reciting some basic phrases whenever we are at our favorite foreign restaurant or   country. We hope it merits some value in the job field, so we list it on our resumes. Some of us even feel compelled to mention our mastery of the French linguistics during an interview, wishing it will translate to some real world success.

Despite what reports say, being bilingual or multilingual creates a distinct social advantage. It provides opportunities in the job market as well as the ability to open your eyes to another culture and travel to other countries to study or teach abroad.

Some of us are taught a second or third language at a young age, mostly because our parents thought it had some kind of beneficial value. Some saw it as a way to hold on to our cultural heritage. Also, reports and news outlets tend to say that knowing multiple languages allows our mind to multitask better and try to link it to better academic performance. Well, the results of over a decade of studies are actually quite mixed, and highlight the distorted scientific image on the beneficial aspects of bilingualism.

The positives of bilingualism do outweigh any perceived drawbacks. First of all, studies have shown that bilingual and multilingual speakers get dementia and Alzheimer’s at an older age. But digging deeper, there are more upsides than just that. As we get older and society becomes more and more globalized, it is more beneficial now than ever to know Spanish, Mandarin or any other language. Not only can we have small talk and meet interesting people when we go abroad, but the job market sees it as a tremendous advantage if you can speak a second language fluently. For those wanting to pursue a career in the medical field, it’s amazing just how many people speak other dialects,  or whose second language is English.

If you have always wanted to travel to another country but have not had the opportunity yet, knowing another language is invaluable. Many students have an easier time studying abroad when they already have an idea of the language and culture of the country they are visiting. You can use it as an opportunity to teach abroad during your gap year after college. From Ecuador, Spain or any of the multitude of countries, it can be a life changing experience, and opens a window and life perspective not possible if one had not been empowered to learn more about another language or culture.

Knowing another language or culture is a hundred percent more helpful. It opens your eyes to other cultural and world perspectives, and makes you more of a universal person. It teaches you to get rid of the single-minded cultural approach which too many Americans have. As a foundation for a better education and more rounded person, learning a foreign language helps make you a more interesting person. Even though it may be a struggle to learn a new way of thinking or speaking, the benefit of multilingualism is too good to hold back. So find a place you would like to travel to, pick up a few books or take some foreign language classes and learn to have an open minded approach towards being bilingual.

 

Alex Guardado is a fifth-year public health science major.  He can be reached at aguarda1@uci.edu.

 

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