Bilingualism aids student development

Global Trends, Languages14 November 20143.1k

We already know that bilingualism is very good for people, as it makes them better decision makers, improves their cognitive abilities and can make them more astute at responding to advertising campaigns

But it seems being able to speak a second language is particularly useful for the development of young children too, as it allows them to concentrate better in noisy environments such as classrooms.

Anglia Ruskin University's Dr Roberto Filippi led new research, which appears in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, and he discovered that bilingual children are able to maintain their focus on the main task.

The power of bilingualism

Youngsters between the ages of seven and ten at a Cambridge primary school were asked to 'identify the bad animal' in a series of recorded statements, some of which had additional noise.

They were split up into two groups – 20 kids who only spoke English, and 20 who had a second language. Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Armenian, Bengali, Polish, Czech, Russian and Portuguese were among the second languages spoken. 

Monolinguals did not have the same level of efficiency when it came to carrying out the task successfully, and this demonstrates how noise affects their ability to sustain attention when trying to comprehend more difficult sentences.

While bilingual students recorded a 63 per cent level of accuracy when the degree of difficulty was increased, this fell to 51 per cent for kids that could only speak only one language.

This highlights how there is a link between cognitive processing and language development, underlining how it is much better to get people learning a language at a young age. 

Improving cognitive abilities

"Previous research has shown that bilingualism has a positive effect on cognitive abilities, but there were no studies investigating whether these advantages extended to learning in noisy environments," said Dr Filippi.

"Primary schools are the key stages for the development of formal learning in the first years of life. However, they are also remarkably noisy. Therefore the ability to filter out auditory interference is particularly important within the context of an educational environment."

Moreover, the study also found that the ability to overcome verbal interference becomes more pronounced over the years in bilingual speakers, but not monolinguals.

With cognitive development being so rooted in the acquisition of two languages in early childhood, countries around the world should be looking at their education policies to see where improvements can be made.  

It's clear to see from the plethora of positive studies available that encouraging bilingualism is a win-win situation, as it means the next generation of workers will be armed with the skills they need to make a real difference.

Moreover, the rise in bilingualism is obviously positive news for the localization industry as well, as it means we have a greater pool of talent to choose from. As I said, a real win-win. 


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