09 Nov Is it Easier for Bilinguals to Learn a New Language?
Bilingualism is defined as having the command of at least two languages. It is a dynamic process, where the proficiency in these languages varies depending on the individual’s exposure and opportunity to practice them. Keeping in mind the cultural diversity of the UAE, 80% of its population speaks other languages other than English, making the UAE a bilingual community.
Higher IQ is associated with better learning and faster task-performance processes. According to a research by the Department of Psychology of Illinois State University, bilinguals score better than monolinguals in reading and vocabulary tests. However, are these findings enough to state that it’s easier for bilinguals to learn a new language?
What do language learners say?
A group of language learners of different ages and nationalities were asked to take part in a focus group discussion. Each participant speaks at least one other language aside, from their mother tongue and is currently learning Arabic. All of them were positive about the fact that being bilingual or multilingual helps in mastering a new language. The majority of them pointed out that knowing two languages allows them to compare the new language and with the one(s) they are already familiar with.
Moreover, they shared that they use the structure, grammar and vocabulary similarities between the languages to facilitate retention. Other students reported that the differences between the new and previously acquired languages also help them remember the new information. This is due to the fact that the differences stand out in their mind as something unusual that requires more attention.
What do experts say?
Based on a research conducted by the University of Haifa, bilinguals have developed a better aptitude for languages. Fluency in one language assists in acquiring a second. Respectively, knowing two languages can promote the learning process of a third one. This is because languages complete and reinforce each other, and provide means to improve the learner’s phonetic, morphological and syntactic skills.
Knowing several languages and switching between them requires good cognitive control and logical thinking. This is because the language that is not in use at a particular time needs to be blocked off. Applying the relevant skills from one language to another is a key function which makes it easier for an individual to go through different learning processes. Adopting the same approach that worked for their previous learning experiences saves a lot of time effectively process of absorbing new information.
Being bilingual is a great advantage to learn more languages. But learning a language, whether it’s your second or third one, takes practice and dedication… and it’s always worth it.
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About the Author: A full-time free spirit, foodie and an art connoisseur, Diana A. loves to explore the world through languages. In love with the Middle East, she is now fulfilling one of her dreams: learning Arabic!