The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli


The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli

¿Hablas español? Parlez-vous français?
你会说中文吗? If you answered, “sí,” “oui,” or “会”
and you’re watching this in English, chances are you belong to the world’s
bilingual and multilingual majority. And besides having
an easier time traveling or watching movies without subtitles, knowing two or more languages
means that your brain may actually look and work differently
than those of your monolingual friends. So what does it really
mean to know a language? Language ability is typically measured
in two active parts, speaking and writing, and two passive parts,
listening and reading. While a balanced bilingual has near equal abilities across the board
in two languages, most bilinguals around the world
know and use their languages in varying proportions. And depending on their situation
and how they acquired each language, they can be classified into
three general types. For example, let’s take Gabriella, whose family immigrates to the US
from Peru when she’s two-years old. As a compound bilingual, Gabriella develops two linguistic
codes simultaneously, with a single set of concepts, learning both English and Spanish as she begins to process
the world around her. Her teenage brother, on the other hand,
might be a coordinate bilingual, working with two sets of concepts, learning English in school, while continuing to speak Spanish
at home and with friends. Finally, Gabriella’s parents are likely
to be subordinate bilinguals who learn a secondary language by filtering it through
their primary language. Because all types of bilingual people
can become fully proficient in a language regardless of accent or pronunciation, the difference may not be apparent
to a casual observer. But recent advances
in brain imaging technology have given neurolinguists a glimpse into how specific aspects of language
learning affect the bilingual brain. It’s well known that the brain’s
left hemisphere is more dominant and analytical in logical processes, while the right hemisphere is more active
in emotional and social ones, though this is a matter of degree,
not an absolute split. The fact that language involves
both types of functions while lateralization develops
gradually with age, has lead to the critical
period hypothesis. According to this theory, children learn languages more easily because the plasticity
of their developing brains lets them use both hemispheres
in language acquisition, while in most adults, language
is lateralized to one hemisphere, usually the left. If this is true, learning a language
in childhood may give you a more holistic grasp
of its social and emotional contexts. Conversely, recent research showed that people who learned
a second language in adulthood exhibit less emotional bias
and a more rational approach when confronting problems
in the second language than in their native one. But regardless of when you acquire
additional languages, being multilingual gives your brain
some remarkable advantages. Some of these are even visible, such as higher density of the grey matter that contains most of your brain’s
neurons and synapses, and more activity in certain regions
when engaging a second language. The heightened workout a bilingual
brain receives throughout its life can also help delay the onset of diseases,
like Alzheimer’s and dementia by as much as five years. The idea of major cognitive
benefits to bilingualism may seem intuitive now, but it would have surprised
earlier experts. Before the 1960s, bilingualism
was considered a handicap that slowed a child’s development by forcing them to spend too much energy
distinguishing between languages, a view based largely on flawed studies. And while a more recent study did show that reaction times and errors increase
for some bilingual students in cross-language tests, it also showed that the effort
and attention needed to switch between languages
triggered more activity in, and potentially strengthened,
the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain
that plays a large role in executive function, problem solving,
switching between tasks, and focusing while filtering out
irrelevant information. So, while bilingualism may not
necessarily make you smarter, it does make your brain more healthy,
complex and actively engaged, and even if you didn’t have
the good fortune of learning a second language as a child, it’s never too late to do
yourself a favor and make the linguistic
leap from, “Hello,” to, “Hola,” “Bonjour” or “你好’s” because when it comes to our brains
a little exercise can go a long way.

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60 thoughts on “The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli”

  1. wanda moroney says:

    Well, back to Duolingo I go!

  2. Black Stone says:

    Llevo unos días en los que al leer el inglés, la mayoría del texto lo entiendo bien sin el traductor. En cambio escribirlo se me hace muy difícil. Soy muy malo para los idiomas. Saludos!

  3. Oratio G says:

    I was forced to learn English because you were regarded as a dimwit if you couldn't.
    Did you know that all British people are bilingual. They speak English and 💩equally well.

  4. P M says:

    All Africans are not only bilingual but multilingual.

  5. H.K.J 73 says:

    Je peux speak three لغات a la same وقت، et change between the ثلاث لغات dans la même phrase.
    In English, I can speak 3 languages & change between them in the sentence.

  6. عمر فايد - Omer Faied says:

    وماذا عن
    Bilingual يتحدث لغتين

    Trilingual يتحدث ثلاثة لغات

    4 Quadrilingual

    5 Pentalingual

    6 Hexalingual

    7: Septalingual

    8: Octolingual

    9: Nonalingual

    10: Decalingual

  7. Luiz Antonio Souza says:

    I've learned english watching Simpsons and listening to Metallica songs. There was no YouTube on my days or internet either.

  8. Sandeep Kamat says:

    i think every indian is trilingual..knowing English..their state language and hindi….

  9. mr sahane says:

    French and Turkish learning now, can i call myself a bilingual person

  10. Avirag Vishwas says:

    I am Indian. Most people in India speak 4-5 languages fluently.

  11. Valesca says:

    I speak 3: hablo español et je parle francais aussi and english

  12. Creeping Shadow says:

    I'm myself multilingual.
    I can speak American, British, Canadian and Australian.

  13. Girly Stuff says:

    Who's bilingual here ?

  14. Jay Clawwit says:

    Why is America so proud of being monolingual?

  15. Mpfumo Wallace says:

    I definitely watched for self gratification 😎

  16. MK Han says:

    When Indians say they know multiple languages🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

  17. Daniel Alberto Gonzalez Soriano says:

    I’m a native Spanish speaker who’s learning Japanese and strangely, i can almost feel how my brain organizes information while learning Kanji.

    ありがとうございますTED cool video!

  18. Mockavel Velli says:

    Except bilingualism isn't really sustained intergenerationally. Often people know their minority heritage language and the more dominant language like English. By 2nd-3rd generation, the children of bilinguals only know the more dominant language. This is how minority languages are increasingly threatened.
    Always make more efforts to learn and protect the minority language.

  19. SHOURYA SINGH says:

    Who else speaks 5 languages ?

  20. Gonzalo Murillo says:


  21. Mado says:

    I’m Japanese, I’ve studied English for three years with my teachers of the school.
    Now I’m interested in México, so I started to learn Spanish with the green owl!

  22. Hyung-chan Kim says:

    Dual operating system

  23. محمود صلاح الدين says:

    тє∂ ιѕ α gιƒт ƒяσм gσ∂, ι ℓσνє уσυ α ℓσт, тнαηк уσυ.

  24. ooDriveoo says:

    How is it that the right/left hemispheric brain fallacy still manages to make it to mass media sigh

  25. Jade Lin Lee Chen says:

    Am I the only person who grew up speaking two languages as one, and then had to learn how to seperate the two in school? I didn't even know Chinglish wasn't a language

  26. HYEMIN SHIN says:

    I am Korean learning Dutch n clicked this video to motivate myself.the more I study Dutch, the more I lose my English 🙄 I feel like I speak ‘0’ language now urghhhh

  27. Sooyon Kang says:

    한국어에 도전하세요 ㅎㅎ

  28. YOAN the Polyglot BENITEZ says:

    I spreche 6 Sprache.Dafur bin ich sehr sufrieden
    I can speak 6 languages and I am proud of it
    Eu falo 6 línguas e por isso me sinto feliz
    Io parlo 6 lingue e por questo io me sinto molto felice
    Yo hablo 6 idiomas y po eso me siento muy feliz
    Je parle 6 langues c' est pour quoi je me sens très hereux

  29. nizaac zuniga says:

    And where does this leads ?

  30. A z says:

    My mother tongue is persian , ive been studying english for more than 8 years from 9 year old till now , im i can speak turkish like my mothertongue ,
    Im learning french and studying japanese and they teach us arabic at school . Which category im in now ?! 😕😕

  31. 태리꾹 says:

    Most Filipinos are coordinate bilinguals!

  32. Alex Arrizon says:

    I speak three languages English Spanish and German fluently. Ich liebe es, verschiedene Sprachen zu hören.

  33. アルフィー says:

    But i mean how many multilingual people are actually at a naitive or highly fluent level in all three or more languages? I know tons of people that can write univeristy level literature essays in two languages, but not a single one that can do it in three or more.

  34. Hitarth Joshi says:

    In India almost everyone is multilingual, they learn their mother tongue (State language) , their National language (Hindi), and also International language (English).

  35. Diane the Invisible says:

    My husband speaks six languages. How thick is his brain?

  36. Sunil Kanade says:

    Read some language frm India.. namskar means hello

  37. Sunset Gao says:

    Did anyone notice at 4:43 that the bubble said 您好 instead of 你好 as the narrator said?

  38. Shadow Luke says:

    ☝️ Who else has watched this during the first week of language class every year?

  39. Jimmie Hernandez says:

    Study show in the next 20 years English will no longer be the most spoke language in the world Chinese 1 and Spanish 2 and 3 Arabic so by all mean I'm so my kids hopefully aleast 2 of these languages

  40. Le Annie says:

    Vietnamese, but more fluent in english, ok at chinese, can understand japanese and respond, learning spanish 🙂

    but billingual bc im not fully fluent in anything else apart frum viet and english

  41. Nur Fee says:

    QuatroLingual Here

  42. wubba lubba dub dub says:

    I speak Arabic, English, German and some Hebrew

  43. Sailor Pluto says:

    I'm Brazilian (we speak brazilian portuguese) and I'm watching this in english, it was gratificant

  44. JalaneT Auraa says:

    Parlez vous français ? traduit par do you speak english ? OK 🤯

  45. Sebastian Marquez says:

    Mate that was close

  46. Kay says:

    Many Americans and people around the world are already bilingual they speak Japanese example Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Nintendo, Canon, Nikon, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Naruto, Pikachu, etc,.

  47. xtscarface M says:

    I just love how my options double up knowing 2 languages. Music specially!

  48. Achilles Armstrong says:

    I did an experiment that I study spanish and japanese at the same times. And I study one hour spanish followed by an hour of japanese. This caused me a trouble. I always mixed up those volcabulary and grammer together. And say something that both language speaker dont understand.

  49. James Benton Ticer says:

    I hate when you hear people speaking English with a Spanish accent and then people will make fun of them bc they speak it with a Spanish accent. I can't help but ask these people, hey how many languages are YOU fluent in??? That pretty much shuts them up.

  50. asmartist enthusiast says:

    Am half turkish Cypriot and English and know how to speak both. Currently learning german.

  51. Alf Andrade says:

    You realize that you are full bilingual after watching and understanding a movie for 30 minutes before realizing that is not in your native language

  52. Mackendy Asmath says:

    Nock,nock I speak 4 languages fluently what am I❓

  53. Johnson Yuen says:

    Money and libido are both brian the most active elements, impossible living without any!

  54. Harry PAnnU ! says:

    Sat sri akal Ji.

  55. Carlton Junior says:

    I speak 3: Portuguese, Spanish and English. And I love all of those

  56. Bob Stamenkovich says:

    Ako ste Srbin, Hrvat, Bošnjak ili Milog…ovaj Crnogorac, automatski znate 4 jezika. Na Balkanu su svi poliglote!

    If you are Serbian, Croat, Bosniak or Milog … hm Montenegrin, you automatically know 4 languages. In the Balkans, everyone is polyglot!

  57. Lana Leon says:

    My son is 1 year old and speaks lots of words in Spanish, Swedish and understands lots of questions in English. Proud mamma.

  58. Sinnappan Pablo says:

    As a Malaysian.. I speak, Tamil, English, Malay.. And understand abit of Chinese.. Hokkien dialect and mandarin

  59. sumaiya ahsan says:

    school taught me my ABCDs but i learned English the most from watching badly dubbed animes and that's why i have no emotion when i'm speaking English lol

  60. Felipe Montoya says:

    Show this to any american!

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