Bilingual speakers

Further Proof of the Perks of Being Bilingual

Translation, transcreation and telephone interpreting services have never been in more demand than they are right now. Globalisation and the internet have made it possible for even small businesses to expand into foreign markets thousands of miles away. The ability to communicate with foreign customers, clients and suppliers is the only barrier that prevents businesses from expanding into almost any market. As a result, the job prospects of bilinguals have never been better.

The last 15 years has seen a considerable amount of research into the benefits of a bilingual mind. Last week’s Linguistica Recruitment blog looked more closely at research which revealed the increased earning potential and improvements in the quality of life bilinguals could expect. There’s also evidence to support the fact that bilingualism makes our brains more efficient at relaying information.

As if the odds weren’t stacked high enough in the polyglots’ favour, the latest research published in Psychological Science shows bilinguals also benefit from being able to view the world differently depending on the language they are communicating in.

A study of English and German language speakers

The research published by Psychological Science centred on a comprehensive study of German-English bilinguals and monolinguals to see how different language patterns changed the way the participants reacted to a number of different tests.

In one test, German-English bilinguals were shown video clips of events that involved a motion, such as a man cycling to a supermarket, or a woman walking towards her car. The participants were then asked to describe what they saw.

Interestingly, a monolingual German speaker would typically describe the action and the goal of the action i.e. “a man is cycling towards the supermarket” or “the woman is walking to her car”, while English monolinguals would simply describe the action i.e. “the man is cycling”, or “the woman is walking.

The researchers believe the reason for this difference is rooted in the way the grammar of the two languages places actions in time. English requires its speakers to grammatically explain the events are ongoing by adding –ing, whereas the German language does not require this grammatical mark.

Different language, different perspective

When it came to testing the bilingual speakers, they were able to switch between the goal orientated German language and the action focused English in accordance with the language they were speaking at the time. In fact, they were just as goal orientated and action focused as any of the German or English speakers, but they also had the ability to switch between the two

These findings support previous research which has showed distinct behaviour depending on the language bilinguals are speaking. For example, in another study, Israeli Arabs were more likely to associate Arab names like Ahmed and Samir with positive words when speaking an Arabic language rather than Hebrew.

Emotional and economic language biases

People often self-report that they feel like a different person when using a language other than their mother tongue, and that the expression of certain emotions carries a different resonance depending on the language they are using.

The same can be said for economic decisions. Bilinguals tend to judge risk differently in a second language, which leads them to make more rational economic decisions. Why? Well, in contrast to their native language, they have not formed the innate, often misleading biases that influence how risks and benefits are perceived. The result is a change not only in the way bilinguals think, but also the decisions they make.

How can we help?

If you need some assistance understanding the cultural and linguistic biases of your clients, suppliers and customers, our mother tongue translators, transcreators and interpreters can help. Get your business communications word perfect by contacting Linguistica International today.