How Does Multilingualism Affect the Brain and Is It Good for Children?


  1. What is multilingualism and its benefits?
  2. Why is multilingualism important?
  3. How does multilingualism affect the brain?
  4. Is multilingualism good for children?
  5. How do I teach my child multiple languages?

Are you a mono-, bi- or multi-lingual household? Would you like your child to grow up speaking more than two languages? Let's take a closer look at multilingualism, its benefits and how it can affect our brains.


What is multilingualism and what are the benefits?  

Put simply, the concept of multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual or by a group. 

Although every one of us has the potential to become multilingual, it seems we in the UK are somewhat lagging behind the rest of the world. In fact, as part of a vote organised for European Day of Languages in 2016, Britain was found to be the most monolingual country in the continent. 😶

However, we are fast embracing multilingualism, with a 2017 report by the Cambridge Bilingualism Network Forums finding that 1 in 5 primary school children in England spoke English as an Additional Language, which is more than double the number in 1997. In fact, more than 300 different languages are now spoken in British schools, so multilingualism is increasingly commonplace and is here to stay. 🙌

Bilingualism vs multilingualism

So, what's the difference between bilingualism and multilingualism? While bilingualism is essentially a type of multilingualism, it specifically refers to the ability to use two languages effectively while multilingualism has no upper limit on the number of languages an individual may master. 👄

Benefits of multilingualism

Comprehending multiple languages has been shown to have all sorts of positive effects on an individual from increasing their ability to multitask, to more effective problem solving, enhanced communications skills, a boosted working memory and increased career opportunities.

Outside of cognitive and emotional development, being multilingual has been found to affect the actual structure of the brain! More on that later. 👇 

Why is multilingualism important?

Given the rapid technological, economic and cultural globalization all around us,  multilingualism has never been a more relevant and useful skill, not only to the individual but to society as a whole. 🤝

Helping your child to learn another language (or two!) will promote academic success in the short-term and make them a more attractive candidate in the global jobs market in the long term. Not to mention the vital contribution to the furtherment of multicultural and international awareness they will make.

How does multilingualism affect the brain?


Researchers have investigated the various effects of multilingualism on the brain through the field of neurological study. These include how different language systems are physically represented as well as the brain's increased structural plasticity. 

There is a general consensus that multilingual people have a greater density of grey matter in the inferior parietal cortex – that’s the part of the brain that processes language, mathematics, the perception of emotions and interpretation of sensory information – all good skills to have! 🧠

Learning a second language can also protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium published a study suggesting that multilinguists exercise their brain in such a way that it can delay general degeneration and the subsequent onset of Alzheimer’s by over 4 years. ✌

Is multilingualism good for children?

The overall impacts of learning multiple languages as a child are as varied and unique as the children themselves. There are several variables to bear in mind such as the number of languages spoken at home, access to formal education, general emotional wellbeing and many more – but research so far strongly suggests that the positive effects far outweigh the negative. 👍

Multilingualism has been proven to help children develop superior reading and writing skills as it allows them to focus better, decipher the most relevant information and then remember it more effectively. Overall, multilingual children have stronger analytical, social, and recall skills than their monolingual peers. 💭

How do I teach my child multiple languages?

Supporting your child to become a multilingual mastermind can seem like a daunting prospect but we are here to help you on your way. Whether your child is a native English speaker looking to learn a second or third language or they are working with English as a second language, there are a plethora of ways to give your little one the best chance at mastering multiple languages.👌

The best approach is undoubtedly exposure and immersion – the more a child is surrounded by multiple languages, the more they will develop those essential multi-tasking skills. We understand that not everyone lives in a multilingual household or can facilitate regular trips abroad – never fear! 

From amazing apps to an ocean of free online content, the world wide web is a great place to start your child’s language-learning journey or support its ongoing development. 💻

If you’re interested in your child learning another language why not find them a private tutor with GoStudent? Our experienced language tutors are from all over the world. Book your free trial lesson today!Start your kid’s learning journey