Is Your Child Bilingual? Here Are 6 Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual!
by Priyambada Datta,
Bilingualism refers to the ability to speak and understand two languages. In the past decade, there has been a tremendous amount of research into the Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual.
Bilingualism is often defined as being able to speak two languages fluently. However, this definition can also include someone who speaks one language fluently and understands another language with some difficulty
Table Of Contents
- Cognitive Benefits Of Being Bilingual
- 1. Stronger Attentional Control And An Increased Ability To Focus
- 2. Improved Memory
- 3. Better Processing Of Information
- 4. Improved Executive Function And Task-switching Ability
- 5. Increase In Creativity And Divergent Thinking Skills
- 6. Reduced Risk For Cognitive Issues And Decline In Later Years Of Life
- It's Time To Start A Bilingual Journey For Your Child!
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Cognitive Benefits Of Being Bilingual
Individuals who speak two languages fluently show cognitive benefits in several areas. Nonetheless, the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in children are well documented. A study of bilingual speakers found that they have more grey matter in the parts of the brain associated with language.
In addition, a 2020 study by Pliatsikas found structural differences in the brain of young adults who grew up bilingual compared to young adults who grew up monolingual. The bilingual group had more gray matter volume in the frontal and parietal cortex than monolingual individuals.
Well, let's get started and get into the Top 6 cognitive benefits of being bilingual!
1. Stronger Attentional Control And An Increased Ability To Focus
A few studies have compared attention to children learning two languages to those who are learning only one. These studies found that bilinguals often outperform monolinguals on tasks involving attention control. Attentional control is a psychological construct that refers to the ability to voluntarily allocate cognitive resources to keep attention focused on a given domain.
For example, a person may be looking at their computer screen and trying to ignore the sound of their phone ringing nearby. In this scenario, the person is attempting to focus on the computer screen by maintaining an appropriate level of attentional control.
The process of constantly switching between two languages requires more concentration than is required for someone who only speaks one language. As a result, it strengthens the brain's ability to focus on tasks.
In a 2003 study, Ellen Bialystok chose 60 pre-school children to conduct an experiment, of which 30 were bilinguals and 30 were monolinguals. It was found that bilingual children performed significantly better on experimental problems that required attentional control.
2. Improved Memory
One of the most important cognitive benefits of being bilingual is enhanced memory. Bilingualism also helps in improving memory skills by allowing people to remember pairs of words in two different languages rather than just one. Therefore, bilinguals often have better short-term memory when they need to recall something quickly because they can access information stored in two places at once instead of just one. This is called bilateral associative memory.
Furthermore, a 2016 study analyzed the effect of bilingualism on working memory. Working memory is a term used to describe the cognitive processes that are responsible for temporarily storing and managing knowledge during complex tasks. It enables us to remember and use information in the present tense. For example, if the phone rings, we can remember to answer it but also recall other tasks we need to do. The study found that in bilinguals, working memory capacity develops better over time.
3. Better Processing Of Information
Speaking more than one language is surely beneficial to the brain since bilingual people absorb information more effectively and effortlessly. According to a researcher, the benefits emerge because the bilingual brain is constantly activating both languages and deciding which to utilize and which to ignore.
Here, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to test co-activation and inhibition in bilinguals. Co-activation is a concept that says that people who can fluently speak two languages have both languages "active" at the same time, irrespective of if they are consciously using them. Inhibition refers to the control bilinguals have in selecting the correct language to use at the correct time. These two processes were found to be enhanced in bilinguals and thus, it resulted in making the bilingual brains more efficient in processing information.
4. Improved Executive Function And Task-switching Ability
The effects of bilingualism on cognitive abilities are varied. Bilingual children also outperform monolinguals on tasks requiring executive function, such as planning, problem-solving, and multitasking. One study, in particular, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that bilingual people are better at switching between tasks than monolinguals. It has been theorized that bilingualism can lead to an improvement in an individual’s capacity for intellectual flexibility where intellectual flexibility is the capacity to switch from one task or cognitive function to another.
Bilingualism also improves one’s ability to adapt and cope with changing environments. The cognitive benefits of bilingualism extend to having more practice at switching tasks. This is because bilinguals use their two languages daily, whereas monolinguals only use one language. Meaning, bilingualism not only improves speed but also the accuracy of task switching.
5. Increase In Creativity And Divergent Thinking Skills
Every day, humanity faces new challenges, and solving them requires creativity. One important cognitive benefit of being an early bilingual is that it improves creativity. It does so by giving the brain more tools to solve problems as well as a wider range of ideas to explore. The bilingual brain is under constant mental juggling exercises. This makes it easier to find novel and creative solutions by using different perspectives or approaches to problem-solving.
Bilingual children are better at coming up with creative solutions for solving problems. as they learn how to see things from different perspectives. When a child speaks more than one language, they have to monitor themselves to switch from speaking one language to another while also monitoring the information that they are trying to transmit. This type of mental exercise can be beneficial for cognitive functioning in other areas such as reading comprehension, reasoning, and divergent thinking.
6. Reduced Risk For Cognitive Issues And Decline In Later Years Of Life
Encouraging bilingualism in children can have many benefits later in life. When compared to monolinguals, bilinguals are less likely to develop or have delayed Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
A 2017 study used FDG-PET brain scans to determine brain activity in 85 people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Of them, 45 spoke both German and Italian while 40 spoke only German or Italian. When compared with the monolinguals, bilinguals showed greater metabolism in key areas of the brain. On average, the bilinguals were 5 years older than the monolinguals, even though they were at the same stage of the disease.
Another study, conducted on 184 patients with dementia showed that bilingualism delayed the onset of dementia by 4 years. The findings support what previous research has shown: Bilingualism is good for your brain!
It's Time To Start A Bilingual Journey For Your Child!
The bilingual brain has been the subject of research for decades. The idea that bilingualism offers functional advantages is not new. However, what is new is the understanding that the capacity to speak more than one language provides a range of Cognitive Benefits.
Bilingualism and cognitive development go hand in hand. Effects of bilingualism on cognitive abilities can be seen in terms of memory, problem-solving skills, etc. These cognitive benefits of being bilingual further give children an academic advantage, as well as help them later in life.
Now that you know the benefits of being bilingual, why not give foreign languages a try? German and French are two of the most widely used languages in the world. They provide access to a plethora of literature, culture, and even job opportunities. If you think you would like your child to learn a global language, check out our French and German courses! The courses are tailored to match the learning ability at various age levels. Book your demo slot!