Investigation of cognitive benefits of bilingualism – Sardinian and Scottish v national languages of Italian and English

The International Journal of bilingualism

has just produced its report Bilingualism in Sardinia and Scotland: Exploring the cognitive benefits of speaking a ‘minority’ language

you can get access to it here

The research reports on a study investigating the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in children who speak the minority languages of Sardinian and Scottish Gaelic, in addition to their respective ‘national’ languages of Italian and English. One hundred and twenty-one children, both bilingual and monolingual, were administered a series of standardised cognitive ability tests targeted at the four areas that have been previously shown to be advantageous to bilingual children in the literature, namely, cognitive control, problem-solving ability, metalinguistic awareness and working memory. The bilingual children significantly outperformed the monolingual children in two of the four sub-tests, and the Scottish children significantly outperformed the Sardinian children in one of the sub-tests. The differences found were largely due to the superior performance of the Scottish bilingual children who receive a formal bilingual education, in contrast to the Sardinian bilingual children who mostly only speak the minority language at home. The implications of the results are discussed.

One thought on “Investigation of cognitive benefits of bilingualism – Sardinian and Scottish v national languages of Italian and English

  1. Also found this by medical daily ‘ there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils,”

    Children who can speak two languages often do better at creative thinking and problem solving, a new study says.

    “Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them,” said Dr. Fraser Lauchlan, lead author of the study and honorary lecturer at the University of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences and Health.

    For the study, researchers gave tasks requiring problem-solving abilities and creative thinking to more than 120 students. All the students were around nine years old and about half of them were bilingual.

    The study was conducted in Scotland and Sardinia and the students either spoke English or Italian, half of these students also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian.

    Researchers found that students who spoke two languages were better at the tests. Also, students who could speak Gaelic had better test scores.

    Researchers say that one of the reasons why Gaelic-speaking students did better might probably be because Gaelic has an extensive literature and is taught formally while Sardinia is more oral and lacks a standardized version.

    “Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively. We also assessed the children’s vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils,” Dr. Lauchlan said in a press release.

    Previous studies have shown that bilingual children often perform better than children who speak only one language. Also, people who learn another language at a young age and practice it during lifetime have better cognitive abilities.

    A study suggests that bilingualism maintains white matter in older adults while another says that it delays onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Recently a study has shown that bilingualism helps children in emotional development.

    “We also found they had an aptitude for selective attention- the ability to identify and focus on information which is important, while filtering out what is not- which could come from the ‘code-switching’ of thinking in two different languages,” Dr. Lauchlan added.

    The study is published in the International Journal of Bilingualism.

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