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Ana Jimena How to improve your English 29 Aug 2018

The advantages of becoming bilingual

By: Ana Jimena Hernandez

Our mother tongue is not only the language from which we learnt our first words or the one we apparently know so well, but it shapes our identity.

As we said in a previous post, the language we speak can determine the way we think, however, when we distance ourselves from it for a while, and we do not use it at all, we may begin to feel hesitant about many of the things we say when we decide to use it again.

However, many people wonder if it is possible to forget the mother tongue. Some people travel to Australia or other English-speaking countries and do not learn English well, but what is even worse, they can't remember their own primary language.

It's curious because those people who usually struggle to switch to another language or speak broken English, seem to be unaware of the enormous advantage of knowing more than one language.

According to Monika Schmid, professor of linguistics at the University of Essex, in the UK, in an interview for the BBC, "it is strange that someone completely loses the use of their first language, but some people suffer a kind of "wear and tear " of their language ".  In other words, they have trouble remembering some words or use odd or outdated grammatical structures".

According to the PhD in Psychology Francois Grosjean, "People who are in an extended process of forgetting a language avoid using it because they no longer feel sure about it and they do not want to make too many mistakes. If they do have to use it, they may cut short a conversation so as not to have to show openly how much they've forgotten it".

While it is true that age influences the speed of learning a second language, it can also be a disadvantage for children whose parents do not encourage them to keep their mother tongue. In Australia, for example, there are many multicultural families, and some of them give priority to one language or another. In some cases, families who arrive in foreign-speaking countries with young children prefer their children learning the new language and hardly pick up the other, thinking that in this way they will be able to fit better into the new culture.

But the truth is that today's world demands more and better communication skills, so there are many more advantages when you are competitive speaking two languages fluently. Some people may say that they are natives in two languages, because of their family situation.

So, if you have children or siblings, or you are an adult who has started to forget your mother tongue, we have 4 reasons to start practising it again.

1.   Challenge your brain

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Speaking a second language has cognitive benefits, such as memory improvement, longer attention span, and a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline.

2.   Cross-Cultural Friendships

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Speaking more than two languages gives us more communication advantages. We can share more and better our experiences and meet people from different cultures and countries.

3.   Analyse your own culture from outside

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Speaking a second language allows us to have a broader vision of the world. We can better understand our own culture and learn to appreciate another’s.

4.   Become more interesting

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Generating admiration makes us feel valued and is excellent for our self-esteem. When we speak more than one language, we have an extraordinary ability that enables us to share with others, and we can also use it to help.

And remember, no matter what, you must feel proud of your mother tongue. If there is no one close to you who speaks your language, stay in touch with it reading or watching movies. Your mother tongue is part of you and your identity, wherever you are, never forget where you come from.

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