Language is one of the defining characteristics of humans. It is an interplay between culture, geography, and biology and is the one thing capable of connecting billions of people. At the time of writing, there are over 6,000 languages spoken across the globe, with English, Mandarin, Hindu, and Spanish being among the most widely spoken.

With such a massive diversity in spoken languages, it quickly becomes apparent why speaking multiple languages can be so advantageous. Geopolitics, education, and businesses rely heavily on efficient communication and minimal instances of misunderstandings. Think of how often simple linguistic misunderstandings cause large disputes and errors, both at the individual and collective level, and you can see why being bilingual is crucial for social activities. Below are some of the advantages of being bilingual

Communication is the key to understanding

One of the best advantages of being bilingual is that it will open up a new avenue for creating connections with others. The United States, for example, is home to 350 languages alone. As a result, it is seen as a melting pot for cultures, but unfortunately, tensions can arise within the country’s smaller communities simply due to language barriers. Having a sizable portion of the population fluent in at least one other language creates bridges between these communities, leading to fewer points of contention.

Teachers are some of the people best positioned to take on the task of fostering new generations of bilingual students. Schools across the U.S. already have foreign language courses integrated into their graduation requirements, but continued education in language studies is often recommended to obtain fluency. For those who never took a foreign language course in school or who wish to piggyback on what they’ve already learned, an online language tutor is arguably the best method toward fluency. There is also an assortment of self-paced online courses and smartphone apps that can supplement this knowledge.

Seeing as English is the most widely spoken language globally, it’s no surprise that it is rigorously instilled into students living in countries outside of the U.S. Learning English gives these students highly sought-after career opportunities in tourism and work abroad. That said, fluent English speakers also have a chance to make money teaching English to students who live in countries where English is not the native language.

Many companies often emphasize hiring people who are fluent in other languages. Knowing multiple languages will increase your odds of being hired, particularly in customer-facing roles. To tap into additional markets, hiring bilingual employees is strategic for businesses to have workers that can communicate with non-native language speaking demographics.

As a traveler, learning the language of the countries you visit opens up a more comprehensive lens into the culture, which has many benefits. For instance, learning Spanish and traveling across Latin America will give you a window into the deeper nuances of specific subcultures. It’ll also make it easier to navigate these countries, lessen the chances of falling for scams, allow getting better deals on consumer goods, and make befriending the locals easier.

All of this is to say that there is a clear incentive for bilingualism among different cultures to bypass language barriers and create a more interconnected, global society.

Exercising your mental faculties

Beyond the unifying nature of language, becoming bilingual has proven cognitive benefits for those who take on the effort. These benefits can be subtle, but ultimately bilingualism can make you a better reader, problem-solver, and general learner.

Whether or not you learned a second language as a child or later in life, studies have shown that being bilingual can help stave off cognitive decline in old age. What’s more, knowing how to switch between two languages has been shown to increase memory and creativity.

Having the ability to read in another language gives bilingual people access to more knowledge resources. For example, novels, news reports, and scientific studies written in another language are now accessible to bilingual people. In addition, increased use of these language skills is continually honed as new words and semantic nuances are discovered within these texts. And in terms of reading news reports, bilingual people can glean more profound insight into events happening across the world, thus making them more worldly people.

And finally, having already mastered another language, especially as a child, gives bilingual people the advantage of learning other skills. Language is a set of systems, much like any other system such as computing languages, scientific disciplines, and music.

So, not only does being bilingual increase your career opportunities, but it also grants learners cognitive abilities that can be applied to just about any other task that living in modern society requires. Moreover, by fostering bilingualism in as many people as possible, the world can become a much more unified and productive place to thrive within.