Attracting Fluency

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Date: Apr 12, 2012
Category: Culture, Media

Well-known for signs lost in translation, China is brushing up on its English through an official menu translation book—say goodbye to dishes like “wood mustache meat.” The Chinese are pushing the mastery of English as an economic priority, but proficiency with language is not only practical—it actually improves the way brains work. As bilingual brains are forced to resolve conflicts between different language systems, they build increased cognitive power, absorption and skills. In this way, learning another language seems to correlate to increased innovation, influencing economic development: Utah owns the highest percentage of foreign-language speakers (thanks to returning Mormon missionaries) and the fastest job growth rate in America. High-tech startups and even eBay and Goldman Sachs are capitalizing on Utah’s multilingual talent pool. Finally, bilingual immigrants seem to be healthier than other populations, though the reasons for this are unclear. Which benefits of bilingualism are most surprising to you?