The 6 Best Things about Being Bilingual

If you’re bilingual, you’ve probably realized that it rocks. You can chat up that cute Spanish barista at that coffee shop around the corner, easily ace your foreign language requirement, and expand your worldview when you read or watch the news in different languages. But the perks of speaking more than one language go beyond the superficial. Here, the six best advantages to being multilingual.

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  1. It (literally) pays off to speak more than one language.

Although the research is limited, there is some evidence that suggests bilingual people may earn more money in their lifetime than non-bilingual people. For example, in 2012, The Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies found that bilingual Latinos in New York City earned $15,000 more annually than NYC Latinos who only spoke English.

Plus, fluency in another language means that employers can send you abroad or use you to communicate with clients that they might not be able to. You are automatically more versatile, so work it (and while you’re at it, check out these 10 jobs where being bilingual is unexpectedly important).

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  1. You can travel abroad more easily.

Culture shock is a common side effect of traveling abroad. But it’s easier to relax and have fun when you can order off a menu confidently, ask for directions when you’re lost, and pick up on cultural references, nuances, jokes, and slang.

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  1. And you can also more easily make friends.

Speaking multiple languages is a great way to connect with new people, whether abroad or in your home country. It’s easier to form lasting relationships with people when you can have full-on conversations with them in their native language instead of having to pantomime everything you’re trying to say because you can’t understand each other.

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  1. It helps you stay connected to your family.

Being able to pick up a phone or shoot off an email in Spanish or Italian to your grandparents who might not speak English is a small — but meaningful way — to stay in touch with your roots, culture, and heritage.

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  1. It’s a conversation starter.

Casually mention that you’re bilingual in conversation and the questions will start flowing. “What language do you speak?” “Are you from there?” “How long have you been fluent?” Plus, the ability to speak a second language might even make you more attractive: A (totally scientific) survey done by online language software program Rocket Languages revealed that the no. 1 sexiest language is French, followed by Italian and Spanish. Seventy-nine percent of people think a bilingual person is more attractive, and 77 percent considered a person to be more intelligent.

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  1. It keeps your brain sharp.

A 2013 study published in medical journal Neurology that looked at 684 patients with dementia found that, on average, bilingual patients developed Alzheimer’s or dementia 4.5 years later than those who only spoke one language.

And according to a 2012 piece by The New York Times, both languages are constantly active in a bilingual brain, even when you’re only using one language at a time. Because of this, your brain is steadily flexing its muscles because it’s constantly resolving conflict. Your bilingual brain also has a heightened ability to monitor the environment around it, because it has to know what language to use and when. Just another reason to be proud of your super-powered brain!

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