How Knowing Multiple Languages Makes You More Efficient


Knowing multiple languages confers a lot of benefits. It allows you to connect with an entirely new population of people. It opens up countless professional opportunities, both domestically and abroad. And it expands your horizons, allowing you to more deeply understand a different culture.

But the benefits of bilingualism don’t end there. Did you know, for instance, that bilinguals have better short-term memories, and are better at multitasking? Indeed, those who speak multiple languages are often more efficient in the workplace, in ways that you might not expect.

1. Bilinguals are better at multitasking.

Knowing multiple languages means that you can rapidly switch between two (or more!) languages in your everyday speech. It turns out that this skill translates into real-life multitasking ability, too. In a recent study that tested people’s ability to rapidly switch between tasks, bilinguals did better than their monolingual counterparts. This means that by learning another language, you’re also maximizing your productivity.

2. Bilinguals have better short-term memories.

Speaking two languages means that you know twice the vocabulary of somebody who just speaks one. Of course, speaking more than two only further increases this ratio! Therefore, it might not be so surprising to learn that bilinguals have a greater memory capacity than monolinguals.

This improved memory isn’t just for words: even in unrelated tasks, such as remembering patterns that flashed on a screen, bilinguals were superior. This shows that knowing multiple languages increases your short-term memory, allowing you to better recall important information like names and dates.

3. Bilinguals are better at problem-solving.


Image via Steven S / flickr

A big part of being an efficient worker is knowing how to solve problems quickly and in good time. And luckily for bilinguals (or future bilinguals), problem-solving is another area in which knowing multiple languages will come in handy.

A recent experiment tested participants’ ability to solve language and arithmetic problems. Not only did bilinguals outperform monolinguals at the language problems, but they also did better at arithmetic, too! Therefore, it seems to be the case that the skills you acquire by learning another language carry over into other fields, too, such as math.

4. Bilinguals are better at saying “no” to distractions.

The Internet has transformed society by allowing free and rapid access to nearly limitless information, but it comes with a downside, too: websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can be a major hindrance to efficiency in the workplace (and in life!). But it’s been shown that bilinguals are better at inhibiting distractions than monolinguals. In other words, by learning another language, you’re also improving your ability to refrain from spending your entire workday watching cat videos.

Bilinguals make great workers for obvious reasons, such as their ability to communicate with a greater range of international clients. But they’re also better at multitasking, problem-solving, and not getting sucked into binge watching House of Cards. That just makes a more compelling case to getting serious about learning a new language!