If you were to venture into a high school Spanish class, odds are you would here at least one person ask in disgust, "When am I ever going to use this?" Well, until recent years, there was no need to learn a second language, and according to the textbook, many people felt that bilingual children actually developed slower than monolingual children. However, recent studies have shown that there are numerous benefits toward being bilingual.
Before we take a look at the benefits, we need to define what it means to be "bilingual." The book states that being bilingual means to be "proficient and fluent at speaking and comprehending two distinct languages." Most bilingual individuals grew up learning two different languages from an early age, most of the time due to having parents of different nationalities, so simply passing a high school language class does not mean you are bilingual. You must continually use both languages on a daily basis in order to reap the benefits.
From an early age, the effects of bilingualism are shown. Despite some evidence that shows bilingual children experience a slight delay in language development, tests have shown that they become more aware of grammatical errors in language. As bilinguals continue to develop, they also become better at understanding differences in language, as well as other skills, such as multi-tasking. (an interview discussing this with neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok can be found here) Also, recent studies have shown that bilingualism can actually fend off the effects of Alzheimer's (video).
Despite how meaningless a second language may seem to some people, the potential benefits of mastering a second language can give you important advantages over monolingual people as you age.