For a whopping 21 percent of Americans, English isn’t the main language spoken at home. In 2014, more than 39 million residents spoke primarily Spanish, and 3.1 million communicated in Chinese at home, The Washington Times reported.

A new study from the University of Birmingham has revealed that bilingualism isn't just common, it comes with some powerful benefits too; it may enhance a person’s ability to maintain attention and focus.

Dr. Andrea Krott, from the University of Birmingham concluded: “Together with other evidence, our research suggests that the lifetime task of switching between languages appears to enhance the ability to maintain attention."

To reach these results, researchers worked with 99 participants to complete three well-known psychological tests — the Simon, Spatial Stroop and Flanker tasks — which measure inhibitory control ability. Of the people studied, 48 were highly proficient English-Chinese bilingual and the remaining 51 were English monolingual speakers.

The study showed that bilingual speakers have better sustained attention than monolingual speakers, but the two groups showed equal inhibition abilities.

"The next challenge is to determine how these behavioral changes are brought about by changes in the brain. It is already well known that the experience of speaking another language changes the structure of the brain and how it functions. But we do not understand very well how these changes lead to changes in behavior."

A recent study also showed that when kids learn a native language early, it could give them a leg-up on English and math comprehension once school begins. The research showed that preschoolers who had strong letter and math abilities in Spanish experienced gains in equivalent English skills.

Source: Krott A. Study Suggests Bilinguals Have An Improved Attentional Control. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 2016.

Read more:

Bilingual Benefits: How Learning Another Language Keeps Your Mind Sharp, No Matter Your Age

Bilingualism And Brain Health: Learning A Second Language Boosts Cognitive Function, Even At Old Age