Research suggests we may be predisposed to speak more than one language and that doing so brings health benefits such as delaying the onset of dementia.
Around the world more than half of people – estimates vary from 60-75% – speak at least two languages.
Many countries have more than one official national language – South Africa has 11.
People are increasingly expected to speak read and write at least one of a handful of ‘super’ languages such as English Chinese Hindi Spanish or Arabic as well.
So to be monolingual as many native English speakers are is to be in the minority and perhaps to be missing out.
Multilingualism has been shown to have many social psychological and lifestyle advantages.
Moreover researchers are finding a swath of health benefits from speaking more than one language including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia.
Could it be that the human brain evolved to be multilingual – that those who speak only one language are not exploiting their full potential?
And in a world that is losing languages faster than ever – at the current rate of one a fortnight half our languages will be extinct by the end of the century – what will happen if the current rich diversity of languages disappears and most of us end up speaking only one?
(ed: reason number 53 for te reo to be taught in our schools..eh..?..)