Various researches have been conducted on the bilingual mind for the last 15 years, the results of which generally point to the real advantages speaking more than one language give a person. From the various evidences that have been found, the brain gets trained to be flexible, as it controls one or more languages. It is this mental flexibility that gives a bilingual or multilingual person the delay in the onset of cognitive ageing (such as Alzheimer’s and dementia), which could be for about five years.
The new research, which was published in Psychological Science dealt with the study conducted on persons who could speak both English and German and also monolinguals, in the scientists’ effort to find out how their reactions to experiments could be affected by different language patterns.
Bilingual participants were shown video clips of events with motion included, such as a man cycling to the supermarket or a woman walking towards a car. Later they were asked to describe the scenes they have seen.
A monolingual German speaker normally describes the action and the goal, such as a man cycles (action) to the supermarket (goal). A monolingual English speaker only describes the action without the goal, i.e., a woman walking.
The reaction according to the researchers is rooted on the grammatical tool kits available in the languages. For English speakers, they were able to make the ongoing events by adding the morpheme –ing to the action, whereas that grammatical feature is not available in German.
Bilinguals on the other hand tend to switch between these two perspectives according to the context of the language used for their given task. The German speakers who are also fluent in English were still focused on the goal when tested in German in Germany, whereas those bilinguals that were tested in English in the United Kingdom were only focused on the action.
Researchers tested another group of German-English speakers while keeping one language more dominant that the other in their video-matching work. What they found out was that the participants exhibited the influence of the more dominant language when they were asked to repeat strings of numbers. When English was blocked, the bilinguals acted in typical German fashion and viewed the ambiguous videos as goal oriented whereas when German was blocked they reacted in the English style. When the researchers switched the dominant language focus in the middle of the experiments, they found that the bilinguals were able to switch reactions right along.
It came to light that bilinguals tend to make more rational economic decisions when judging risks through their second language. This tendency removes the misleading and deep-seated biases associated with using their first language, which at times could unduly cloud how they perceive risks and benefits. The experiments proved that what language a person speaks affects his or her view of the world based on the context.