Research shows that Bilingual children have “an aptitude for selective attention” and an ability to filter and focus on information.

Further to the last story this from the BBC highlights the demonstrable benefits whilst challenging the sceptics view that it (bilingualism) can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them (the learners).

Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to a new study.Researchers set lingual, arithmetical and physical tasks for 121 children, aged about nine, in Scotland and Sardinia, Italy. They found that the 62 bilingual children were “significantly more successful in the tasks set for them“.

The study has been published in the International Journal of Bilingualism.

The Glasgow-based children spoke English and Gaelic, or English only, while the Sardinian cohort spoke either Italian only, or Italian and Sardinian.

Gaelic ‘advantage’

They were asked to reproduce patterns of coloured blocks, to repeat orally a series of numbers, to give clear definitions of words and to resolve mentally a set of arithmetic problems. The tasks were all set in English or Italian.

Researchers found that the bilingual children were “significantly more successful in the tasks set for them”.

There was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils”

 Dr Fraser Lauchlan Strathclyde University

They observed that the Gaelic-speaking children were more successful than the Sardinian speakers.

The differences were linked to the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could develop skills useful in other types of thinking.

The study found that the further advantage for Gaelic-speaking children may have been due to the formal teaching of the language and its extensive literature.

Sardinian is not widely taught in schools on the Italian island and has a largely oral tradition, which means there is currently no standardised form of the language.

The study was conducted by Strathclyde University with colleagues from the University of Cagliari in Sardinia. It was led by Dr Fraser Lauchlan, an honorary lecturer at Strathclyde’s school of psychological sciences.

He said: “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.

‘Demonstrable benefits’

“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 that the bilingual children were seen to have “an aptitude for selective attention” and an ability to filter and focus on information which is important.

It is thought that this may come from the “code-switching” of thinking in two different languages.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-19109883

Another story about this can be found at http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=EN_NEWS&ACTION=D&SESSION=&RCN=34907

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 http://ijb.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/12/1367006911429622.abstract

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.