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Advantages/ disadvantages of learning a second language

Most of the advantages and disadvantages of learning a second language are intuitive but here is a simple list to start:


  • Become more open minded:  By learning multiple languages, children will become exposed to other cultures, as languages and cultures are closely intertwined. Rather than think that there is only one way to everything, children stay open-minded to other possibilities.  (Based on research by the University of California)
  • Better at multi-tasking: Children who grow up learning to speak two languages are better at switching between tasks (multi-tasking) than children who learn to speak only one language, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. (Research conducted at University of York in Toronto and appeared in the journal Child Development.)
  • Ability to discern between sounds:  Infants who are raised in bilingual homes can easily learned two similar-sounding words at a later age than babies who are raised in homes where only one language is spoken. (Based on research conducted at University of British Columbia and Ottawa)
  • Ability to build relationships faster: Bilingual children build bridges to new relationships because they have the capability: they can talk to diverse people, they build different sorts of relationships. (Based on research by the National Center for Educational Statistics)
  • Financial advantage in career: When the child finishes school, a second language often leads to better and more career opportunities. (Based on research by the University of California)
  • Native-like proficiency: Early exposure and acquisition of a second language will determine if the child will carry a heavy accent in the second languages.  People who learn new languages after childhood most likely will carry heavy accent, influenced by the first language. (Based on research at the Cornell Language Acquisition Lab (CLAL))
  • Bilingualism helps forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:  Studies show that aging bilinguals had better cognitive functioning than normally aging monolinguals. (Based on research conducted by A cognitive neuroscientist prof, Ellen Bialystok)



  • Slower to learn languages:  Even though bilingual children are better at multi tasking, the study also found that bilinguals are slower to acquire vocabulary than are monolinguals, because bilinguals must divide their time between two languages while monolinguals focus on only one
  • Cultural identity issues: Depending on where the child grows up, the child can feel confused about who their cultural identity. For example, if they speak Korean and Chinese, will there be a pressure to identify more with the cultures of Korea or China?
  • Added academic load: Classes in most schools are taught in only one language. For the child to become fully fluent in reading and writing in a second language, there will be additional work for the child to learn the second language. The time spent could take away from other activities and studies, which could be a major tradeoff
  • Increased work for the parents: Often, children who can achieve native fluency in a second language grow up in an environment where the parents need to be actively involved to teach the child the second language




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