Why Multilingualism is on the Rise


Research has shown that poor language skills cost Britain around 3.5% of its GDP each year. While poor language skills may seem limiting, studies have shown that languages actually improve trade relations. German companies that invested in multilingual staff and German translators found they added 10 new export markets each year, while those that didn’t invest increased their loss in terms of contracts. Despite the potential benefits, some people wonder why multilingualism is so important.

Good for the economy

Many countries are reaping the rewards of multilingualism, and the economy in particular. Those countries which actively promote different languages enjoy a higher level of productivity, greater innovation, and more profitable exports. Research by Gabrielle Hogan-Brun, an investigator at the University of Bristol, shows that countries with more languages generally have higher GPDs, which can be attributed to the multilingualism of their population. According to her, Switzerland, which has four national languages, including German and French, attributes ten percent of its GPD to its multilingual heritage. Its language diversity also includes ancient Latin-based Romansh.

Having employees who are fluent in two or more languages increases productivity and can lead to higher salaries. Research shows that bilingual workers earn an average of US$7,000 more a year than their monolingual counterparts. In fact, bilingual workers in the United States earn 3 to 7 percent more than their monolingual counterparts. And the benefits of multilingualism extend to employees as well. According to a study by the New American Economy, the demand for bilingual employees increased by nearly three percent from 2010 to 2015. The same applies in other countries, where the need for bilingual employees was greater than ever.

Good for children

The benefits of multilingualism extend far beyond the ability to converse with others. Children who speak more than one language are more likely to foster a positive attitude towards other cultures. Such children are more likely to develop close relationships with family members and grandparents from different countries. Multilingualism also fosters cultural tolerance and helps children adapt well to different social settings. Ultimately, multilingual children are more likely to succeed academically.

Books play a crucial role in the cognitive development of a child. By being able to understand many languages, children have more opportunities to access the hidden literary gems of each language. This means children will have access to more books than those written only in their native tongue. Learning a second language is also beneficial for the child’s social skills, IQ, and self-esteem. Learning another language also improves a child’s concentration and memory, two important skills for academic success.

Good for society

The benefits of multilingualism extend far beyond personal enrichment. Learning another language helps us to become better global citizens, and being able to speak several languages is like having a superpower. Among other benefits, speaking more than one language opens up our mind to other cultures and improves our ability to understand intercultural differences. Furthermore, multilingualism can increase one’s life expectancy. Those who are multilingual represent the epitome of cultural dynamicity and cross-cultural exchange.

Among the qualities that modern multilingualism shares with diversity is mobility. Some scholars contend that language has always existed, even before the human species began its globe-hopping voyages. In fact, researchers have found that people brought language with them when they migrated to Australia. The Middle Ages saw the growth of carriages filled with people, allowing them to speak freely. This led to large improvements in some classes.

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