The Benefits of Being Bilingual

by Sayaka Umei

Bilingualism is the ability of people to speak in two languages fluently. If this “fluency” would be defined as “to be able to speak, understand, read, and write well in a language (“English-only triumphs, but the costs are highby Alejandro Portes),” most of the bilinguals were born in the different country from their parents’. There are the arguments whether the bilingualism is good or not, and in my opinion the bilingualism is good for their career and ability. I will begin with the positive points and negative points, and lead the new problems through these points

According to Portes, the strong points for bilingualism are that it is good for the brain, which is good for cognitive development, enhances the cohesion of the family unit or culture of the home country, and keeps or establishes self-esteem well. On the contrary, the negative points of it are that it might get children confused or it is hard for them to acquire two languages at the same time. However, these negative points are not true. Scientifically learning two languages at the same time is good for their brains because they develop differently through learning.

Here, new three problems are coming up through expansion of the multiculturalism and bilingualism. First, the idea of “English-plus” by Portes is that people can speak in one language except for English and “plus” they can speak in another language. If these people do not have parents who speak in different language from the language where they live, they cannot get the environment to speak in English. So they need the environment for it, such as school system. However, this kind of school system is not common. Just some special schools have this English-another language system.

Second, bilingualism can enhance family or culture cohesion, but it could threaten the unit of the host country. That means people keep their home countries’ language so they also keep the home culture as well. Some people would get together and make community. If it might get bigger and have a certain mind or idea, it could threaten the host country.

Third, there is the idea of “cultural capital” by Portes. This means the United States leads this world and the most spoken language around the world is English. Socially and politically people whose first language is English do not need to speak other languages because most people can speak in English or try to learn English to have communication. That also means most people who are bilingual or who want to speak in one more language can speak in English. That cannot be really said “multiculturalism” according to Portes because it just English culture plus other cultures.

In conclusion, there is misunderstanding for bilingualism among many people all over the world and some people do not know the benefit from it. After children growing up, then they realized the benefit, but it is too late to be bilingual. Or some country would be worried about their unity against this global society. What people need in this society, where the bilinguals are getting common, is that they have to understand what bilingualism is well and what is needed as career in this global society in order to solve these problems.

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