Multilingualism is when a person speaks more than three languages. These people are often called said to be polyglots, and are admired for their ability to speak so many different languages. If you are thinking about broadening your horizons to learn a second, third, or fourth language, you may be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of multilingualism are. Read on to find out.
Advantages of Multilingualism
People who are multilingual are able to translate between several different languages, both for themselves or others. This can be incredibly useful, particularly in certain fields such as history or religious studies, where the ability to read or understand an original document can help lend additional information.
2. Ability To Speak To Many More People
The more languages you speak, the more people you are able to easily communicate with. This opens up a world of possibilities, full of more personal stories and interesting people to get to know.
3. Travel To Other Countries Is Easier
If you enjoy traveling abroad, multilingualism can make this a lot easier. An ability to speak to a native population in their own language is not only exciting, but also much more convenient. It may even prove to be safer.
Disadvantages of Multilingualism
One disadvantage of being multilingual is that it may lend itself to some confusion. Keeping track of so many different languages in your head may cause you to confuse the words of one language with another. This can be further exacerbated if the two languages are similar – such as with Spanish and Italian, for example.
2. Possible Lack of Proficiency
Although it is a rare possibility you can obtain native fluency in multiple languages, it is very hard to accomplish. Multilingualism may cause you to lack high levels of proficiency in some languages, whereas you could have learned a second or third language to native proficiency instead. For many, this isn’t much of a disadvantage. If you simply need to be conversationally adept, it’s fine. If planning to travel extensively, move to another country, or translate documents, however, this can become a very large problem.
The largest disadvantage of multilingualism is the amount of time it takes to accomplish. Learning even one new language can take upwards of two years – and that’s only to reach an advanced level of understanding, not a native one. Some studies say reaching native fluency can take as long as seven years if you aren’t fully immersed in the culture, such as when moving to a country where that language is the native tongue.