Recent research conducted by Dr. Athanasopoulus, of Newcastle University has revealed that bilingual speakers, or those who have studied a foreign language to some extent, see the world differently to monoglots. According to Dr Athanasopoulus, immersion in a foreign culture, including the use of another language, leads people to think in a completely different way: “There’s an inextricable link between language, culture and cognition”.
One example he provided, after conducting a study involving English and Japanese speakers, is that Japanese speakers tend to distinguish more between “light blue” and “dark blue” as there are two single Japanese words to describe these variations. He took into account the extent to which both languages are used, as well as the length of time spent in the countries in question, and used colours as an example due to the huge range of vocabulary that can be used in descriptions. He concluded that it is the extent to which a language is used, rather than the user’s proficiency that is most influential.
It was also discovered, by a study conducted in 2009 for a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, that speaking two languages improves a person’s ability to ignore distractions, and also to switch between two tasks. This has been linked to the necessity of blocking out one language when speaking in the other. There have also been supported suggestions that bilingualism can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The importance of bilingualism in terms of business has been highlighted in various articles in journals and newspapers. Immersion in another culture, as well as enhancing the distinction between various shades of colours, helps a person understand another culture, another language, and another way of life. This can be of immeasurable significance in the business world, when working on an international scale. Relations between two companies from different countries are likely to be stronger if both parties have an understanding of the way in which the other conducts business.
As if you needed any more encouragement, as The Daily Telegraph comments, “we are all designed to acquire language, but we are built to learn and accommodate more than just one: monolinguals are effectively under utilizing abilities by not tapping that potential.”
4 April 2011 10:33