Minority bilingual children from low-income families demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains

Many research papers so far have looked at bilingual middle class children and the benefits bilingualism brings. This is interesting as it focuses on low-income families and suggests that:

The researchers believe that the findings could inform efforts to reduce the  achievement gap between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. “Our  study suggests that intervention programs  that are based on second language teaching are a fruitful avenue for future  research,” says Engel de Abreu.

“Teaching a foreign language does not involve costly equipment, it  widens children’s linguistic and cultural horizons, and it fosters the healthy  development of executive control.”

They created tests that tested knowledge, memory and their ability to focus when there were distractions.

A total of 80 second graders from low-income families participated in the  study. Half of the children were first or second generation immigrants to  Luxembourg, originally from Northern Portugal, who spoke both Luxembourgish and  Portuguese on a daily basis. The other half of the children lived in Northern  Portugal and spoke only Portuguese.

 

The researchers first tested the children’s vocabularies by asking them to  name items presented in pictures. Both groups completed the task in Portuguese  and the bilingual children also completed the task in Luxembourgish.

 

To examine how the children represented knowledge in memory, the researchers  asked them to find a missing piece that would complete a specific geometric shape. The researchers also measured the  children’s memory, using two different tasks to see how much visual information  the children could keep in mind at a given time.

 

To examine how the children represented knowledge in memory, the researchers  asked them to find a missing piece that would complete a specific geometric shape. The researchers also measured the  children’s memory, using two different tasks to see how much visual information  the children could keep in mind at a given time.

 

The children then participated in two tasks that looked at their ability to  direct and focus their attention when distractions were present. In the first  task, they had to find and match 20 pairs of spacecrafts as quickly as possible,  a task that depended on their ability to ignore all the non-matching  spacecrafts. In the second task, the children were presented with a row of  yellow fish on a computer screen and they  had to press a button to indicate which direction the fish in the center was  facing. The other fish either pointed in the same or opposite direction of the  fish in the middle.

 

Although the bilingual children knew fewer words than their monolingual  peers, and did not show an advantage for representation tasks, they performed  better on the control tasks than did the monolingual children, just as the  researchers hypothesized.

This is all good, beneficial research and something that no doubt will become a greater research area as more research finds benefits in bilingual education.

It is really interesting reading and can be found at: http://scienceblog.com/56290/speaking-two-languages-also-benefits-low-income-children/#ID4t583mCmoIY3P5.99