The evidence keeps pouring in that bilingualism is good for you.
Bilinguals with the ability to switch languages seamlessly have likely developed a higher level of mental flexibility than people who only speak one language, researchers at Penn State said Tuesday in a press statement.
"In the past, bilinguals were looked down upon," Professor of Psychology, Linguistics and Women's Studies Judith F. Kroll said in a press statement. "Not only is bilingualism not bad for you, it may be really good. When you're switching languages all the time it strengthens your mental muscle and your executive function becomes enhanced."
Researchers performed two experiements on English and Spanish speakers to assess whether both languages were active in their minds at all times. In the first, subjects read 512 sentences in either English or Spanish, switching between the two every two sentences, and had to read cognates out load in red as quickly and accurately as possible. The subjects rarely tripped up. The linguists then performed the same experiment, one language at a time, with similar results.
“Bilinguals rarely say a word in the unintended language, which suggests that they have the ability to control the parallel activity of both languages and ultimately select the intended language without needing to consciously think about it,” the release says.
The researchers published the results of the experiments in Frontiers in Psychology.
The study is part of a growing body of evidence upending the traditional view that growing up bilingual hindered cognitive development.
But not everyone is getting the message. The school board of Irving, Texas, is moving to limit the use of Spanish in the district’s bilingual education. Arizona voters banned bilingual education in the year 2000.
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Because Americans speak it
Dead giveaway. Some 37 million Americans spoke Spanish at home as of 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a whopping 12.8 percent of the population. It's not very foreign when more than one in 10 people in your country are doing it. <em>Image: A furniture store that caters to Spanish speakers advertizes an American-style Valentine's Day sale in Spanish on January 22, 2003 in Santa Ana, California.</em>
Spanish was spoken in what is today the United States before English.
Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, <a href="http://www.staugustinegovernment.com/visitors/nations-oldest-city.cfm" target="_blank">founding a permanent colony in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565</a> -- well before the English set up Jamestown. All European languages, on the other hand, are more foreign to North America than Karuk, Cherokee, Natchez, or the scores of other languages of the indigenous peoples of the continent. <em>Image: St Augustine, Florida, the first permanent Spanish colony in North America. </em>
Because it’s the country with the 5th-largest Hispanophone population in the world
Only Mexico, Spain, Colombia and Argentina have larger Spanish-speaking populations than the United States.
Because we don’t have an official language
Despite what the nativists may think, English is not the official language of the United States. Those with limited <a href="http://www.lep.gov/faqs/faqs.html#OneQ2" target="_blank">English proficiency are entitled to assistance to access federally funded programs</a>.
Because it’s the most-spoken language on the island of Puerto Rico
And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens. <em>Image: A Puerto Rican fan waves his country's flag as he watches a live telecast of the World Baseball Classic championship game between Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic in San Juan, Tuesday, March 19, 2013.</em>
Because a bunch of our states and cities have Spanish names
Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California, Sacramento… the list goes on and on.
Because Spanish-language broadcaster beats NBC in ratings.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/univision-ad-nbc-ratings_n_2775996.html" target="_blank">Univision now holds the fourth spot for U.S. networks</a>, pushing NBC down to fifth place.
Because it’s becoming the second-most important language in politics
<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/us/politics/tim-kaines-immigration-speech-in-spanish-is-a-first-for-the-senate.html" target="_blank">Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the first U.S. Senator to give a full-length, Spanish-language</a> speech before the Senate on June 11, 2013. Prior to that, Marco Rubio had given the first Spanish-language rebuttal to the State of the Union speech.