How being bilingual rewires the fundamental structure of your brain

Being bilingual can fundamentally alter the structure of your brain and rewire it to work differently than the brains of those who only speak one language, research has revealed.

Citing bilinguals’ ability to hold two languages in their head and expertly switch between them at the right times, Pennsylvania State University cognitive scientist Judith F. Kroll told Quartz that “Bilinguals are a really a model of cognitive control.”

This study reveals that being bilingual alters your brain

According to Kroll’s study, if you speak two languages and have ever found this task to be difficult—choosing the “right” tongue based on the context you’re in—it’s because both languages are always “on” in the brains of bilinguals. This, means that your brain is continually processing information in both languages.

Kroll holds that the mental struggle of selecting and switching between two languages actually helps reshape the brain’s networks.

He told Quartz that his study proved that being bilingual can improve speakers’ cognitive abilities. “Babies who are listening to two languages [growing up] become attuned to those two languages right away,” said Kroll. “It’s not confusing them or messing them up developmentally—the opposite is true.”