The Benefits of Bilingualism in a Global Society

At Lumos Education, many of our families are bilingual or trilingual. 

Bilingualism, the ability to proficiently speak and understand two languages, is a gift that enriches lives in more ways than one. In our increasingly interconnected world, the ability to speak more than one language has become an asset, opening doors to a myriad of opportunities both professionally and socially.

Beyond just the practicality of being able to communicate with a wider range of people, bilingualism offers a host of cognitive and cultural benefits that help to shape individuals and societies. Researchers are increasingly presenting the psychological, economic and health benefits of multilingualism. (Reference)

It is commonly accepted that bilingualism is easier when immersed in both languages before puberty, with the benefits extending far beyond childhood. We see how families, particularly those in multicultural hubs like London, are increasingly prioritising bilingual education for their children – a direction which we hope continues! However, some parents worry that bilingual education could hinder their child’s progress in their native language.  We break down some of the main arguments that showcase the benefits of bilingualism. With the right support, multi-lingual children can thrive.

Personal Growth

Mastering a second language can help to instil a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-confidence, encouraging children to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new challenges. For individuals with a cultural heritage tied to a second language, bilingualism helps strengthen connections to their roots and fosters a sense of belonging.

 Additionally, having two languages to reference when learning a third eases the process of language learning. Bilingual people are naturally more practiced at tonal, linguistic and grammatical nuances, which eases the process of learning a new language. This in turn creates a deeper understanding of grammar and language structure.

Professional, Social & Cultural Benefits

In today’s globalised job market, bilingualism enhances employability, in fields beyond the more obvious ones such as international business, diplomacy, translation, and tourism.   For example, many who work in the City, London’s financial centre, speak at least two languages.  Studies correlate the benefits of bilingualism to greater average earning potential. Being bilingual also increases your networking potential; speaking multiple languages facilitates communication with individuals from diverse backgrounds, expanding professional networks and opportunities. In an increasingly digital age, bilingualism is becoming useful as communities across the world can interact instantaneously.

Socially, being bilingual allows individuals to connect with people from diverse backgrounds, fostering empathy, tolerance, and cross-cultural friendships. For many it also allows for access to literature and media from a wider pool. Speaking multiple languages allows access to wider array of literature, films, music and other cultural forms.   

Cognitive Benefits

Additionally, research suggests that bilingual individuals often exhibit enhanced cognitive abilities, including stronger problem-solving skills, multitasking abilities, and improved memory retention. It has also shown evidence of improved regulation in emotional and social attitudes. Bilingual people are ‘more adaptable thinkers’ according to a report by the Language Institute.

Additionally, bilingualism can be linked to greater focus and attention. Constantly switching between languages requires cognitive control, which leads to improved focus and attention regulation. Bilinguals have the unique ability to seamlessly switch between languages depending on the context, allowing for more nuanced communication and expression.

Alongside there is a body of research that links bilingualism to the delayed onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, providing a protective effect on cognitive function in later life. One notable study was conducted by Ellen Bialystok, a leading expert in bilingualism and cognitive aging. Bialystok’s research suggests that bilingual individuals may experience a delay in the onset of symptoms of dementia compared to monolingual individuals. Her work has been published in various scientific journals such as “Psychological Science,” & “Brain and Language.”

Embracing Multilingualism in a Global Society

Many families in cosmopolitan cities like London recognise the importance of being conversant in multiple languages, not just for professional success but also for social integration.

With an increasing number of families holding dual citizenship, the ability to speak multiple languages has become a necessity rather than a luxury for their children. Bilingualism, if not multilingualism, is viewed as essential for navigating an interconnected world, fostering cultural understanding, and facilitating communication across borders.

Bilingualism is not just a skill; it’s a gateway to a world of opportunities and connections. Many of our families recognize the importance of equipping their children with the linguistic skills needed to thrive in a global society. Whether it’s through bilingual schools or immersive language programmes, embracing multilingualism is key to unlocking a brighter future, professionally and socially, for the next generation.

However, whilst we see enthusiasm, we also see some anxieties. Many parents are concerned of the challenges that can come with learning multiple languages at a young age. It is true that some children can feel confused when learning multiple languages, and this has been known to delay children’s proficiencies in either language.   However, the delay is always short-lived.  And enrolment in a good bilingual school, that understands how to educate bilingual children, is key to unlocking the benefits of bilingualism.

Bilingual Schools in London

London is home to expert bilingual schools which can adapt to different family situations & language backgrounds.

French bilingual schools like Ecole Jeannine Manuel, Lycée Winston Churchill, Collège Français Bilingue de Londres,  Lycée Charles de Gaulle and its feeder schools, offer immersive bilingual programs which provide students with fluency in both English and French.  For young children and toddlers, there are also a host of excellent French bilingual nurseriesThe German Deutsche Schule offers a bilingual programme in German and English. And, for information on London’s Arab English bilingual schools see here. 

For bilingual families whose children attend British schools in London, there are lots of opportunities for them to attend Saturday schools, which allow the children to practice writing or speaking their mother tongue.  These include Russian Saturday schools such as Znaniye &, German Saturday schools in North London and Arabic Saturday schools amongst others. 

We have extensive experience helping families from across the world access excellent multi-lingual education in London, the wider UK and globally. For advice and supported applications please do Contact us.