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The Majority of People on the Planet Speak More Than One Language


…unless you’re an American

The BBC recently published a great summary article on the benefits of speaking more than one language..

Monolingualism, or, the (dis)ability to speak only one language, is definitely in the minority world wide. Studies show that nearly 75% of the global population speak at least two languages, and in many parts of the world, it is common to speak as many as five languages. The human brain very likely evolved to be multilingual! (one of my family’s closest group of friends not only all carry 4 passports each, they are all at least tri-lingual!)

Yet here in the U.S., monolingual English speakers appear to be the norm. That is changing, however. Within 25 years, there will be more native speakers of Spanish in the US than there are native speakers of English! If you want to stay in the majority, it’s time to buckle down and get another language under your hat!

The benefits of speaking more than one language may be hard for a rural Vermont student to comprehend, but that doesn’t mean that the benefits aren’t clear. Bilingual students consistently perform better on verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests, and have higher GPAs overall than their monolingual peers.

And the benefits of being multilingual go beyond academics. Multilingual people show a statistically relevant advantage with respect to the onset of brain deteriorating diseases such as Alzheimer’s where even among those individuals with nearly identical genetic predispositions to develop Alzheimer’s, the multilingual individuals don’t show symptoms on average for more than 5 years after monolingual individuals.

So, join the majority, improve your grades, and stay healthy and strong intellectually longer and study that second language!