Bilingualism, Cognitive Development, and The Alays in Indonesia

Recently we finally had a very useful and applicable seminar. It talked about being bilingual and how it affects a child’s brain development. Apparently, limited bilingualism in a child (not fluent in any language – as in reading, writing, speaking: semantic meaning, grammar, vocabularies, pronunciation) shows negative effects on its cognitive development; partial bilingualism (native in only one language) shows neither positive nor negative effects; while proficient bilingualism (high level in both languages) shows positive cognitive effects.

Here’s a diagram I tried to create based on my note:


Let’s leave the scientific studies to the experts (do read it, it’s interesting). But as for me, I’d like to have my real life samples as proof of how higher level of bilingualism does show higher level of thinking. And that includes better judgements, reasoning, deeper analytical skills, broader knowledge, and even more wisdom.


People with edge and a sense of wit usually belong to the upper level of bilingualism/cognition. I have known people who are fluent in more than one language and they do appear to have a more interesting outlook on life. One of my students is Spanish native, but she is forced to strengthen both her English and Bahasa in order to follow the lessons. I’ve had a lot of fun talking and discussing about so many things with her.

She once asked me: “Miss, do you believe in God? And that the world will end someday?”

or “Do you believe in Big Bang? How do you know that it really happened? Science is stupid!” But then I find her reading all the books about the creation of the Universe provided in class.

And after I explained to them about the possibility of a huge asteroid hitting the Earth on April 2029, she came to me looking somewhat annoyed,

“I was fine before, but now because of you, I am going to die!”

Now isn’t she hilarious 😆

Companies really should realize this and appreciate their bilingual local employees instead of worshipping those with blue eyes and blond hair just because they “sell”. Those British, Americans, Australians, Canadians; they don’t master bilingualism, therefore there is no reason to underestimate, undervalue, and underpay those who actually speak two languages, those with better brain development. Okay, I’ll shut up before they read this and sue me. But I hope you get the point, big boss.

“Bilinguals look at problems at different ways.”

“Competent bilinguals feel good about themselves and have pride in their culture.”

The downside is, people with this level of competency have the potential to be arrogant, if not balanced with a sense of modesty and humbleness. Trust me, I’ve met people who are proficient in three (or maybe four) languages who are completely heartless and shameless. And I have to say, that is not impressive *shakes head disappointedly*


Then there is the “second class” in this version of human classification. Some students who I thought are pretty smart with good understandings, show that they still struggle on one of the languages. Some of the Indonesian students speak English all the time, but they don’t read, write, or speak Bahasa appropriately. Some others read, write, and speak Bahasa in good manners, only they neglect the importance to train their English.

These students still have hope to improve their potentials, if they are encouraged to keep on trying. The thing to worry about is the adults who already feel satisfied with their skill of language, who assume that their brains are so superior that they need not learn anything anymore. Being shallowjudgy, petty, and tend to prioritize the insignificant are some of the characteristics of these people. For your own research, the next time you meet people who show those symptoms, try to find out whether they are bilingual or not.

The last, the lowest class (I am not discriminating, note that I am referring to the chart :D). Some people (and sadly, some of my students as well) show very poor linguistic skills. Let alone second language, they don’t even master their mother tongue proficiently. As in they don’t respect the need to use language appropriately, be it written, read, or spoken. Those in this level tend to write and speak thoughtlessly. And to me, that starts with the spelling.

yes, I understand your confusionclick here and have fun making your own twisted sentence!

I believe more studies are required to really conclude that people who write absurdly like the one on the second box do have negative cognitive development. But the idea of brutally ruining our language like this, really is such a big concern about the future of this country. Oh my!

Related links:

Benefits of being bilingual.
Bilingualism strengthens cognitive development.
Bilingual language acquisition.

3 thoughts on “Bilingualism, Cognitive Development, and The Alays in Indonesia

  1. HA.HA.HA.HA .. interesting post sis.. Never really thought of this before (carefully check my spelling, no shortenization)

    I pass ..

  2. come to think of it, it is possible that they‘re the genius ones y’know? considering we need EXTRA thinking to really understand their writing

  3. hahaha…. I just read this post and I have to agree with you 100%… It’s quite interesting though it seems like you have many gifted students in your class… I mean like is a kid came up to me and asked me: “do you believe in the big bang and how it created the universe?” i’d be like…” ………. ” momentarily pause in disbelief that a kid is actually thinking far ahead than I am…!!! (a reminder of my IQ)… weks…hahaha…

    eh bo……… kapan niiiiih qt bs update gosssiiiiiiippp… banyak yang perlu didiskusikan mengenai dunia yang senantiasa berputar… wkwkwkwk….

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