Advantages of Being Bilingual

by U. Christine Afola Amey, a new American by way of Togo

Do you agree with me that the ability to use two or more languages is a great privilege in this global economy? Employers prefer people fluent in other languages for their greater capacities. But, one of the best ways to value the benefits of being bilingual is when you travel, asides from the multiple extensive knowledge you can gain by being fluent in two languages. So for me, ultimately, the advantages of being bilingual far outweigh the disadvantages people sometimes might see.

In this globalized world, where the need to communicate more efficiently for greater benefits is so urgent, this ability constitutes a real privilege. Effectively, persons with more than one language have a better chance of being hired easily  than  monolingual people. They are more appreciated and rewarded better by their employers not only for their competencies in doing many different tasks in less time, but also for their ability to belong to two cultures. According to some cognitive studies (Collier, 1987) bilingual people are often greater communicators between their colleagues and greater agents of problem solving for many companies.

In addition to the benefits an employer enjoys, a new set arises,  when you travel to a foreign country where your languages can be used. Personally, I experienced these opportunities many times living in New York now and before coming to New York. My best friends in New York are African and French people speaking French like I do. When I am homesick, I meet them for some conversation.  I also  feel very comfortable in New York when I meet Russian people with whom I can talk, because I am fluent in this language. I make a lot of friends among  these people and we exchange a lot of useful ideas. I always feel a peace of mind and learn more when I can understand what I am  reading in another  language. For this reason, I am really delighted to belong to a book club in this Center where I can share different ideas because I am on the way of becoming a good English speaker.

All these different gains explain people’s different efforts to encourage  their kids  to become fluent in another language. Unfortunately, not all of them reach their goals. In some cases, most children prefer the dominant language. English in the U.S., for example, to their first language. The less preferred becomes weaker or is spoken with some confusion and with  less knowledge of  the culture it represents. To avoid this, the second language should be given at the very early years of childhood – from one to three, then from three to seven up to 15 years- according to Klein, (1989).

To sum up, the opportunity of being fluent in more than one language presents great profits to everyone everywhere. The more languages you know, the more benefits you accrue for yourself and for society. So it is quite normal to notice, nowadays, the numerous efforts made by parents to provide their kids with  good basic elements of second language acquisition.

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