Bilingual vs. Monolingual: What's the Cerebral Difference?
Iman Kashif - 5 November 2021
‘Bilingual’ refers to those who are capable of speaking more than one language, while ‘monolingual’ refers to those who speak only one. In this article, the difference in brain activity and effects on the brain concerning bilingualism and monolingualism will be explored.
But first, what causes these advantages to even be present in the first place? A study published in 2017 found that bilingual people’s capability to “seamlessly switch between two distinct communication systems masks the considerable control exerted at the neural level.” This is due to the phenomenon of both languages essentially being ‘switched on’ in the bilingual’s brain whenever a word from a language is spoken, causing a dual side-by-side activation of two languages as opposed to one in the case of a monolingual. In simpler terms, while a monolingual being would only have one language system running in their brain while interpreting language, a bilingual would have two language systems running simultaneously, therefore illustrating the difference in cranial activity between both types of speakers.