What's the key to health, wealth, and happiness? Being bilingual, says science


Children of immigrants who are raised to speak, read, and write both in English and their mother tongues can expect to earn more than their English-speaking-only peers, a new study claims.

Jointly published by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and Educational Testing Services, the paper claims that bilingual children in the US are expected to earn as much as $5,000 (€4,400) more than purely Anglophone Americans. These children also have a greater chance of pursuing higher education, being better paid, and of having more diverse social networks.

"We live in a globalising world," the study's author Patricia Gándara told Mic. "Our interconnectedness can be our strength as a nation, but we are far behind other developed nations in our ability to communicate across linguistic and cultural lines."

Gándara, a research professor at UCLA, was surprised at the findings of her research, given a multitude of previous literature claiming bilingualism is detrimental. Throughout much of the 20th century, the predominant thought among leading educationalists was that speaking a second language at home would hamper a child's ability to develop academically and intellectually.

"Bilingualism among the children of immigrants in the United States represents a previously untapped national resource," she said. 

Scepticism towards the abilities of bilingualists is on the wan, and this news is just the latest in a number of studies espousing the values of learning a second language; in 2012, Canadian researchers concluded that bilingualism slows the development of dementia, and that children who are bilingual are better able to transition between tasks.

Furthermore, a group of sociologists at Rice University in Texas published a study on the physical and mental wellbeing of bilingual immigrants, suggesting they were healthier than their monolingual peers.

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