How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The case for living in two languages

Book cover of "Bilingual Is Better."

Bilingual Readers

Book cover of "Bilingual Is Better."

The coauthors of a new book titled "Bilingual is Better," Roxana A. Soto and Ana L. Flores, also happen to be the two bloggers and bicultural mamis behind Spanglish Baby, a go-to site for parents who are trying to raise bilingual children.

To call such an undertaking a struggle is an understatement. Public school English-as-a-second-language programs have given way to English immersion for non-native speakers, and schools offering dual-language immersion classes are very limited. Even if they are learning a second language, some children rebel and only want to speak English. There are naysayers. The list goes on.

But the research out there does point to how speaking a second language is good for you, benefiting the brain in numerous ways, and eventually the pocketbook as dual language skills can help boost one's career prospects. And there are no better cheerleaders for life in two languages than Soto and Flores, who grew up bilingual themselves and are now raising bilingual children, at least trying their best to.


Your brain on a second language: Bilingualism and brain power

Photo by Reigh LeBlanc/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Does being bilingual really make you smarter? Science staff writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee made a good argument for it in the Sunday New York Times, citing several studies in recent years which suggest that the ability to speak a second language indeed boosts cognitive skills.

Key to the most recent understanding of how this works is a reversal in attitudes toward a second language being an "interference." Once thought to have hindered academic and intellectual development, this factor turns out not to be such a bad thing after all. Bhattacharjee writes:

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other.

But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.