No, speaking more than a language is not only a way to show off. I mean yeah, bilinguals seem to show off when switching from one language to another.
When they can’t recall a word in their own native language. When they laugh at your poor accent or include foreign words in their sentences without minding that their audience might not understand what they mean.
Bilinguals who grew up speaking two languages or more didn’t have it easy though, nor did the ones who took the time to learn new languages by their own means.
Speaking is not communicating, it would be silly to think that learning vocabulary from a book means to speak another language. Learning a new language means to embrace a culture, a whole new way of thinking that leads to many changing.
Motivations might be different, but one thing is certain multilinguals have a flexible, highly trained brain. The brain is muscle after all. When you train it, it gets resistant. Studies have shown that multilingualism provokes a delay in dementia and other degenerative sicknesses symptoms such as Alzheimer.
Because communication requires adaptability. Flexibility. In international environments, it means a constant paradigm shift. From metaphorical French to logical German. From flexible English to rigorous Czech. From singing Italian to rough Arabic.
This leads to a phenomenon observed in various American studies multilinguals tend to have a great sense of creativity. Some expressions can’t be translated to another language word for word, in such cases the speaker needs to be smart and find a way to express an idea but with different tools.
The bigger your tool box, the easier it gets to express one idea.
Multilinguals also are problem solvers. Learning a foreign language requires a lot of active hearing. The speaker needs to be attentive. He observes. Witnesses a lot of conversations at first, before taking part in it. He becomes a social monster. He analyses. Repeats. Makes mistakes. And starts again. Some might say that foreign languages are like tattoos once you get one, you instantly want a new one. And the pain slowly fades away, until meeting your tattoo artist becomes a usual thing.
One last thing to convince you, dear reader. If you never managed to choose between Bonnie and Clyde, Starsky and Hutch nor Doctor and Mr. Jekyll, you might want to reconsider the idea of learning a new language. Language being a medium catalyzing feelings, experience and emotions, some researchers discovered that mutlilinguals possess as many personalities as languages they speak. My English can confirm me this affirmation.
So no, we’re no hipsters. And until the day Skype will replace us by a translating machine, we’ll always have a job, globalization is definitely on our side. Plus, it is really convenient to be able to swear in a language no one understands… Well, that’s what we think.
Inspired by Kristyna and her “multilingual” mind