Do Language Learners Have a Higher EQ?

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Measuring a person’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient) has been common practice for decades. But in recent years, researchers have directed their attention to the study of a person’s Emotional Intelligence—their EQ.

You likely already know about the primary benefits of language learning, but did you know that learning a second language could boost your EQ? Here’s a closer look at how learning a language teaches students empathy.

What is empathy?  

Emotional intelligence can best be understood through empathy, which is the ability to understand other people and feel compassion for them. It is argued as being the most defining human quality because it sets us apart from other beings, like robots and animals.

Without empathy, we would not be able to work as a functioning society because we need empathy in schools, workspaces, and other areas that bind society together. Empathy involves a sensitivity to others’ emotions, understanding where their emotions came from, and responding to them in the right manner.

Where does empathy come from?

Babies do not have empathy, so where does it come from? Most children develop empathy naturally, while other children may react in inappropriate ways towards others’ emotions.

Children who have difficulties with empathy have no problems identifying emotional reactions, but they do have difficulties understanding the purpose of these emotions. It has been studied and proven that poor development of empathy in childhood leads to poor social skills in adulthood.

Why is language important?

Language is the soul of each culture. The ability to understand a language is crucial for historians and those who study international affairs.

Both of these people focus on learning their project’s language because they know that without it, they can’t have an understanding of the cultures of these groups. In general, different societies have different languages, cultural practices, and ways of communicating. To understand a new culture, we must first understand their language.

How is language linked with empathy?

Bilingual speakers are better thinkers, they’re more creative, and they’re better at understanding people. All of the superior social skills of bilinguals are components of empathy. Bilingualism improves creativity, which grants people new ways of seeing the world from a  different point of view. Understanding a new point of view has a direct correlation with empathy because it involves understanding other people’s emotions that aren’t your own from a new perspective.

Many colleges, programs, and employers place a high value on people who are bilingual. Particularly, multilingual workers in the healthcare and service industry not only benefit from improved communication but also from heightened levels of understanding—empathy. Even in the virtual world of telemedicine, virtual rehab, and online doctor’s visits, knowing a second language is a distinct advantage.

The Bottom Line

Not only does learning the second language teach you to be more compassionate, but simply being exposed to another language can have the same effect. To understand a speaker’s intention, you must take the speaker’s perspective.

Multilingual exposure enhances perspective-taking. Overall, the brain is a muscle. And the effect of learning another language strengthens the brain—just as running strengthens the heart. The superior social skills of bilinguals prove that learning a second language teaches individuals to be more compassionate, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent.

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