A look into bilingualism and myths surrounding

Stefanos Delipoglou

Many times we look at another culture and wish we could experience their lifestyle. Not just as a tourist, no, but as a member of this foreign group. We want to communicate with them and experience all that they do so we can learn more. Many seek to learn a language to effectively comprehend another group while others shy away from learning a new language. Many, unfortunately, are fearful of the effects of learning a language. However, there are more than a few common myths around bilingualism.

To start off, many people believe that bilingual individuals, specifically those who learn at a younger age, are weaker intellectually than their mono-linguistic peers. This is not the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. By knowing more than one language, people are actually able to tackle a problem more efficiently. How is that? Well, as you’d expect (hopefully), languages are structured differently from each other. The most common example is a “backwards” use of noun and then adjective in other languages. While speaking another language, individuals have to think of these seemingly subtle differences in a given conversation. This, of course, leads them to be more careful and calculating in other aspects of life. So in the end, these individuals may be better off in the long run when compared with a tunnel-vision view of their friends who only speak English.

Many people think that once they reach a certain age, they immediately lose the ability to learn a language. They may even say they’re “an old dog that can’t learn new tricks.” (This is an English metaphor; don’t try to use it in another language). Again, this is simply a myth, sort of. It is, statistically speaking, more difficult for an adult to learn a language, but it doesn’t become impossible. A child raised in a house of two (or more) languages will adapt quickly because, hey, they’re trying to learn the world anyway. Adults are a little more stuck in their ways, but they’re not as senile, broken and unteachable as they claim. A second (or 10th) language will only help you in the end. Personally, I wish I had fully learned Greek to be able to speak with my grandparents. I can’t say I believe it’d make me worse off, but I was just lazy. It’s not too late to start learning a new language. Why not begin while it’s easier to expand your mind?

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