Bilingualism Provides a More Vivid Worldview

Mastery of a second language alters the way one perceives situations, offering a more complete worldview. It's like two minds alive within one person.

We've written at length here on Big Think all about the many benefits of learning a new language. Few life skills match language-learning's ability to better your career prospects while simultaneously making you a better person more capable of empathy and understanding. Now, as reported by Science Mag's Nicholas Weiler, a new study reveals yet another advantage to multilingualism: a heightened ability to perceive the world.


"The results suggest that a second language can play an important unconscious role in framing perception, the authors conclude online this month in Psychological Science. 'By having another language, you have an alternative vision of the world,' [psycholinguist Panos] Athanasopoulos says. 'You can listen to music from only one speaker, or you can listen in stereo … It’s the same with language.'"

That's kind of an interesting thought. Later on in the piece, Weiler quotes Athanasopoulos as saying that being bilingual is like having two minds for one person. What it amounts to, says Weiler, is a heightened flexibility for thinking. Here's an example he uses to explain:

"Where did the thief go? You might get a more accurate answer if you ask the question in German. How did she get away? Now you might want to switch to English. Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study. The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews."

You can access the study here.

Read more at ScienceMag.

Photo credit: XiXinXing / Shutterstock

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