Identifying as Multilingual Makes You Better at Everything

Andy Hab
2 min readDec 20, 2021
Photo 87800703 / Multilingual © Tosca Weijers |

Catchy headline. It must be exaggerated!
Only a little!

You say identifying as multilingual and not actually multilingual?!
Yes, that is what is interesting about this research. There have been a bunch of benefits recorded with being multilingual. This includes, for example, cognitive flexibility, and this could be considered a benefit of knowing two or more languages and being able to switch between them.

This research by Rutgers et al. from the University of Cambridge tracked more than 800 pupils in the UK and their respective GCSE scores. They found that those who identified as multilingual scored better across the whole range of subjects.

But wasn’t this also correlated with actually being multilingual?!
No, it wasn’t. Being multilingual didn’t predict much — but identifying as multilingual irrespective of whether one, for example, grew up with parents speaking another language to English, did .

Oh wow, interesting! Why?
Yes, it is interesting. There could by many reasons. For example it could be about openness and willingness to explore other facets of language or culture, it could suggest flexibility of thought, etc. It could also include other facets that are important irrespective of linguistic ability that contribute to academic achievement such as confidence.

So imagine you can speak another language rather than learn another language!
That’s likely taking it too far! What we can say is a multilingual identity is more important than linguistic skills by itself. C’est pas vrai?


Dieuwerke Rutgers, Michael Evans, Linda Fisher, Karen Forbes, Angela Gayton, Yongcan Liu.
Multilingualism, Multilingual Identity and Academic Attainment: Evidence from Secondary Schools in England. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 2021; 1
DOI: 10.1080/15348458.2021.1986397

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!