As America's population grows ever more diverse, smart companies are realizing they need bilingual employees. That's just common sense. Now comes evidence proving that dual-language speakers may be faster thinkers and more productive, even in roles that don't necessarily require them to utilize their second language.
A study conducted by Northwestern University and the University of Houston and published in the journal Brain and Language found that bilinguals were more efficient at making linguistic and visual connections, possibly because of the mental acuity required to constantly balance two competing vocabularies.
Both bilingual and monolingual participants in the study were asked to pair an English word with its matching illustration while hooked up to an MRI machine that monitored their brains' blood flow. The results showed that bilinguals utilized fewer brain functions to make the correct connection, and thus were able to do it with less effort.
"The bilingual has to lift more weight than the monolingual, because bilinguals experience competition within and between both their languages while listening to speech," the researchers told Live Science. "But the bilingual is also stronger, because they've been mentally 'working out' like this for their whole life."
According to the researchers, bilinguals become more adept at blocking out uneccessary, confusing, or distracting signifiers, creating the sharper thinking skills essential in multitasking.
It's never too late to learn a second language. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg. Last month, the Facebook founder impressed a group of Chinese college students when he answered all of their questions in fluent Mandarin.