Applicants who are bilingual seem to have an obvious advantage over their monolingual competition, but a new study featured on The Huffington Post shows that there is more to it than just being able to talk to foreign clients or partners. Researchers Andrea Stocco and Chantel Prat of the University of Washington believe that speaking more than just one language trains your brain to react faster in certain situations.

For the study, they put 17 bilingual and 14 monolingual people to a series of arithmetic tests. Each problem was defined by a set of operations and two inputs. There was a practice run followed by a real test which was a mix of 20 sets using the previously studied operations and 20 new ones. Then, they went through another mix of old and new problems while inside an fMRI scanner.

Results showed that both groups were able to answer the problems with accuracy, but that the bilingual group was a half second faster on average. Researchers also discovered that the basal ganglia, a section of the brain linked to rewards and motor functions, responded more to the new problem sets, but only for the bilinguals.

“If that's correct, the new results suggest that learning multiple languages trains the basal ganglia to switch more efficiently between the rules and vocabulary of different languages, and these are skills it can then transfer to other domains such as arithmetic,” reports The Huffington Post.

(Photo by in 30 Minutes Guides via Flickr Creative Commons)

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