Multilingual and multi-lingual people tend to feel more involved in life.
A team of research by MindShift conducted the study to learn how speaking two or more languages contributes to a healthy life.
With around 77 million bilingual and multilingual people worldwide, whether speaking one language or two, several studies show that it pays to maintain a bilingual lifestyle. A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development conducted the study to find out how multilingual individuals are affected by their linguistic background. In particular, they took a look at how participants felt about multi-lingual peoples, and found that multilingual people tend to have a more engaged mind.
Personal connection and interaction
“A language is like a tool for one’s brain,” said Grace Fu, author of one of the study’s studies. “Especially if you have two or more languages, the communication tool we are talking about becomes more complex.”
A study conducted by Fu found that having two or more languages stimulated the brain by altering the activity of the area called the motor cortex, located on the right side of the brain and responsible for the control of motor functions.
At the same time, researchers looked into the effects of two languages on language-related feelings, particularly when it comes to personal connections. “When people are separated from a language, this sometimes results in very difficult emotions,” said Fu. “For example, if a language that you had a close relationship with has been made extinct. It is like losing a friend. We as a society need to reflect on these feelings in order to be better able to deal with them.”
Multilingual people feel more connected to others, and are therefore more likely to interact with others in their language. Furthermore, these language-based interactions in turn have an impact on the participants’ feelings of wellbeing. “When you are part of a multilingual community, you are more likely to feel closer to and communicate more with others,” said Fu.
A more engaged brain
Other studies have also found that multilingual individuals are more engaged and mentally improved with their working memory, and their attention span is longer. This is why multilingual people have an easier time when it comes to multitasking and have a healthy life.
In a research study by Dr Monika Krischka and Dr Paul Niklender, young and adult participants, all of whom were bilingual, underwent various tasks. One task involved having to compare objects in different languages, and the remaining tasks consisted of processing data from a computer. After these tasks, participants rated how engaged they felt during them. Researchers then gave all participants a brain activity test, and found that bilingual individuals are able to process data faster. Additionally, researchers found that bilingual individuals had increased connectivity between the motor cortex and temporal cortex, which would help them perform the tasks faster.
For the same purposes, Dr Giovanni Ciccolini and Dr Stefano Nuovo conducted a study, and again found that bilingual individuals had better brain connectivity. They concluded that multilingual individuals are more active than monolingual individuals during thinking and decision-making.
“In addition to the cognitive process, the physical activity in the brain is also relevant to health,” said Kieth Wang, a collaborator of the study. “Research by Dr Chiara Montanari and Dr Giuseppe Passione has shown that the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, is more active in multilingual people. Multilingual people will usually have clearer memories and improve their spatial memory.”
One of the study’s last features involved determining participants’ social-emotional tolerance. This involved testing participants’ reactivity when faced with different situation, in this case a description of a situation where people were separated. Researchers found that those with a higher multilingualness responded more favorably to the situation and felt more comfortable.
In conclusion, multilingual individuals often have lower depressive tendencies, and are less vulnerable to a range of mental health conditions. It has been proven, by this study, that when multilingual people come into contact with others in their language, they are more likely to demonstrate an intense emotional response. This change in activity in the brain is also present in the brain of people who have immigrated to other countries, and is therefore related to the identity of an individual as a person who has diverse language-related experience.