As terrible as I am at Spanish, I wish I was bilingual and so should you



The benefits of the bilingual brain

My three siblings and I traverse the education system differently than most. My sister graduated from Catholic Central High School, I will graduate from FHC, and my little brother will graduate from Forest Hills Northern (FHN).

When people hear this, they are always puzzled by the reason, and while it is complicated and confusing to explain, I always land on the idea that my brother won the battle of the schools.

While I hate to endorse FHC’s rival, FHN, it is critical to acknowledge the depth of knowledge my brother has had since kindergarten that I was deprived of: he is fluent in Spanish. 

Both my sister and I struggled immensely in high school Spanish class, and I have little question why. It is blatantly obvious that my elementary school, twice-a-week Spanish class was far from efficient in submerging me in the complexities of another language, and into high school, I was far more fluent in grammar rules than in the language itself. 

Walking up to a group of ten Europeans, it is likely five, if not six of those individuals speak more than one language. Out of ten Americans, it would be two. This begs the question why? If so many other nations find being bilingual beneficial, why haven’t Americans caught on? What are we missing out on?

The bilingual brain can improve the attention of a learner as well as task-switching capacities. People tend to believe learning multiple languages as a child confuses children and makes it more difficult for them to learn, however, in most cases, the opposite occurs. In the short term, a child may be confused, but the long-term benefits of learning a second language at a young age are unmatched. 

Children zero to three years old have brains in the primary stage of flexibility which are suited to learning a second language. And contrary to popular belief, this does nothing to impact their native language at this stage; it comes as easy as simple tasks and doesn’t interrupt primary languages. 

This momentary challenge results in a stronger brain that’s better equipped with flexibility. 

While learning a language in childhood is the ideal option, there is still hope for adults and young adults to reap the benefits even in the later years of life. 

Like children, it helps with focus. This is the result of the workout the brain receives switching from language to language and deciding which one to choose; this momentary challenge results in a stronger brain that’s better equipped with flexibility. 

Bilingualism can also help with disease control. While it doesn’t necessarily prevent Alzheimer’s disease, it can work to slow the onset by as much as four years in some cases. This can be said for Dementia as well as bilingualism stimulates multiple aspects of the brain. 

I don’t blame my parents or the school for condemning me to such a subpar Spanish education in comparison to my brothers, I blame the culture we have adopted in America. Regardless of the cause, the foreign language deficit in America needs to be closed. English is far less widely spoken than most Americans believe it is, but also for the benefit of our own brains.