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Melissa Gilardi

ENG 101

In America as of recently, there has been much controversy having to do with the topic

of immigrants coming into the US speaking different languages and English not being one of

them. Many people are in denial about the changes that have been made in the United States

and it has caused much discrimination against those who are unable to speak English fluidly.

However, the languages brought in by non-citizens has not affected America in a negative way,

it has made it a better and unique country to live in because of the positive effects it has not

only on them, but on Americans themselves that they do not realize or deny.

To start, multilingual countries give more of a statement than that of an average country

with the majority speaking only one tongue. It is not just the language brought in, but the many

cultures as well, which could in the long run positively reinforce the American children growing

up in the US to develop a more open mind to those different than they are. Many kids growing

up in an environment where, say, Spanish is spoken more than English, they grow up speaking

English alongside Spanish, which looks great on resumes for jobs and being able to

communicate well with those who have difficulty speaking English, and therefore, form close

bonds with others. It also shows them firsthand the cultural diversity of Hispanic cultures in

comparison to their American culture, in their own neighborhood, which is impressive for

anyone to experience. The positive outcomes of this are endless, one of them being to help

ultimately help business owners grow their business or obtain more bilingual clients that can

relate to you on their level that many monolingual people do not.


The many languages not only help build connections between people of different

cultures but also is known to make people smarter. People growing up and living in a

multilingual country and being able to speak more than one language have been known to

avoid dementia in old age alongside growing and expanding many cognitive skills not even

related to language. There are also some negatives to bilingualism like the fact that in a

bilingual’s brain, both language systems are active even when he is using only one language,

thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. 1 But this should not be only

be seen as a weakness but also a blessing in disguise. Being bilingual works out the brain and

works hard to fix internal conflicts which ultimately strengthens its cognitive muscles.

In a recent study on forty-four elderly Spanish-English speakers, scientists led by the

neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that

individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation

of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia

and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the

age of onset.2 Because of this, we can see that not only does having the ability to speak

multiple languages and merely having it in our environments work out our cognitive functions,

but it also prevents potential diseases that could negatively affect our lives and end it as we

know it to be now.

11
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Why Bilinguals are Smarter
(The New York Times, 2012)
2
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Why Bilinguals are Smarter
(The New York Times, 2012)
There is evidence from a variety of studies that show that bilingualism helps strengthen

the executive function, which are a set of cognitive functions that are used to control certain

behavior, choosing and monitoring behaviors that help achieve goals and complete mentally

demanding tasks. Some of these tasks being able to avoid distractions, staying focused, and

switching back and forth between subjects in mind without struggle.

This ability helps strengthen the ability to notice changes in your environment and being able to

react accordingly.

Growing up bilingual myself in a Hispanic household surrounded by that culture, I find

that these examples pertain to me as well and my ability to adapt to different cultures that I

find in my friends. Being able to relate to other people of Latin origins helps grow stronger

bonds and personally, most of my friendships are based off of this. If I didn’t speak Spanish I

feel that these friendships would not be as strong because I put myself in their comfort zone

instead of mine as English is my first language but not theirs. Being as most of my bilingual

companions speak Spanish more fluidly than English, I feel that it makes them feel more

comfortable speaking to me and therefore strengthens our friendship in which we both feel

confident speaking to each other.

Growing up in a different culture alongside the normal American one, I see that there

are many differences that seem to separate our cultures, and which seem to be building a wall

between us when in reality, we should be working on teaching each other and helping the

people of other cultures learn. I believe that in the long run, this will open Americans’ minds to

interactions between themselves and other countries’ cultures and make them more well-
rounded as it has made me, and to help give them the ability to put themselves in the shoes of

others and relate to them more on a more personal level that nowadays, many struggle with.
Works Cited

Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit. “The Benefits of Bilingualism.” The New York Times, The New York

Times, 17 Mar. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/thebenefits-of-

bilingualism.html.

Griswold, Daniel. “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in

the World.” Cato Institute, 18 Feb. 2002, www.cato.org/publications/commentary/immigrants-

have-enriched-american-culture-enhanced-our-influence-world.

Marian, Viorica, and Anthony Shook. Cerebrum: the Dana Forum on Brain Science, The Dana

Foundation, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583091/.