Multilingualism confers many cognitive development and communication skills for both adults and children. By teaching in a multilingual environment and offering classes in more than one language, educators facilitate the development of multilingual skills among their students.
When teaching international students, educators should not only limit themselves to a common language. By diversifying their linguistic abilities, they would not only be capable of understanding their students better but also gain a few intellectual benefits for themselves and their students. Language training confers many benefits for teachers that go beyond professional advancement.
It was once believed that bilingualism led to smaller vocabularies and poorer cognitive development. Over the past few decades, this old paradigm had been shattered; prior flawed studies have since been refuted by more recent evidence in the past decade alone. Today, it is understood that being fluent in more than one language confers several intellectual and neurocognitive advantages for adults and children alike.
Improving Spoken Comprehension
One notable advantage conferred by multilingualism is the ability to understand the structure of languages based on comparisons between the languages taught. This profound understanding of the nuances of the individual languages they know helps make multilingual persons more compelling communicators. Multilingual proficiency helps hone skills in speaking, writing, and editing.
Due to the nuances of language, learning more than one language helps hone people’s reasoning abilities. By making them more attuned to subtleties of implication that can influence and cloud judgment, multiple language skills help a person discern the actual value of arguments. This can help them make recognize pre-existent biases that may not have been noticed when they were thinking with only one language. People who are multilingual also gain a better appreciation of multiple cultures.
Multilingualism engages several different sections of the brain. As people become more and more fluent in another language, they start thinking in both languages they have learned. This constant switching between languages keeps their executive control systems constantly stimulated. This can have far-reaching intellectual benefits in the long run. Having better executive control gives people a better grasp at things that catch their attention and perform better on duties that involve multitasking and high-level thought.
Multilingualism also helps people hone their problem-solving skills. The ability to express ideas in two different ways can also help multilingual persons be more flexible intellectually. They can perceive two different situations and make adjustments based on how the situation is presented.
And because they are more attentive, multilingual persons can also gain benefits in learning. They become less held back by prior stimuli and can focus on the task at hand, giving them better focus on new information. Studies have suggested that learning more than one language can help people learn new skills (including new languages) faster than they previously had.
Teaching multiple languages should be done in concert. Studies have found that English-learning programs for non-native English speakers worked hand-in-hand when paired with language classes for the students’ native language. When students performed well in classes for their native languages, their proficiency in English also improved significantly.
This system, a break from the old paradigms that taught English in exclusion, also addressed a key problem encountered in new language acquisition. By learning both their native languages and English, they retain communicative efficiency that they would have otherwise lost. This allows students to continue to pursue bilingual skills development and maintain their connections with their families and communities.