Foreign Languages

Studies Find You Make Better Decisions When You Think About Them in a Foreign Language

I love studying foreign languages. I regularly watch movies in Spanish and play language-learning games on my phone. But I also know that as an American, I’m fairly alone in my obsession with Spanish verb conjugations and German language idioms.

Because while the percentage of bilingual US residents has doubled over the last thirty years according to the Census Bureau, the overall number of bilingual Americans remains comparatively low. 82% of people who live in the US are monolingual. In Europe, by contrast, 50% of people 15 or older are conversational in at least one other language.

learning a foreign language

I wish the US would hurry up and jump on the foreign language bandwagon, because according to a new study published in the Journal Psychological Science, people make better decisions when thinking in a second language. Although I’ve read and written about the benefits of learning a foreign language before, I still found the study’s results somewhat surprising. You would think people would be able to make equally rational decisions no matter which language they were thinking in, but according to a series of experiments conducted at the University of Chicago, that isn’t the case. The results of the experiments found that people were able to make better decisions when they were thinking in a language other than their mother tongue. Researchers concluded that this was because thinking in your non-native language takes more effort, which causes people to approach the decision-making process in a more analytical and less emotional fashion than they might normally.

You can read more about the study here.

Pretty fascinating stuff, no?

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