Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yet Another Bilingual Advantage

Ever since the explosive studies by Wallace Lambert and his collaborators at Montreal's McGill University in the 1960s, the tide has been turning in favour of bilingual education from childhood. (For an obit of Lambert, enter lambert in the Search box on the right.) Where I live, the discussion is no longer about whether children should learn two languages (half of them are Natural Bilinguals anyway in Spanish and Valencian) but whether they should be taught a third or even a fourth. It's true that in an officially bilingual jurisdiction like Canada or the Valencian Community we need to be on guard against research that fits too neatly into the current social and political agenda, but even so the trend is IMHO convincing. Bilingalism means more language and cultural flexibility, etc. From this year foreign languages are part of the primary school curriculum even in recalcitrant Britain.

Now comes a new twist.
"Researchers have found that bilingual children are able to concentrate better in the busy classroom environment than their monolingual peers. The research from Anglia Ruskin University [in the UK] found that 7- to 10-year olds who speak only one language were more negatively affected bu noise and were less able to keep their attention on a task when there other noises nearby. Published in Bilingualism, Language and Cognition, the study shows that the heightened performance of bilingual children is dependent on how well they know the two languages."

The Linguist, December 2014/January 2015, p. 5.

E. Peale and W. E. Lambert. The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs, General and Applied, vol. 76, no. 27, pp. 1-23. 1962.

Amanda Barton. Primary problem: how is compulsory language education shaping up on the ground? The Linguist, December 2014/January 2015, pp. 20-21.

Anglia Ruskin University. It sprang from a school of art founded at Cambridge by the 19th-century artist and critic John Ruskin.


  1. Sticking to just one language for the sake of making the classroom more efficient and understandable for kids does not take use of their potential to learn new languages easily. Bilingualism should always be encouraged as this pushes children to learn new things, with their brain processing language deeper and better. This excercise requires focus and concentration, something that has already been proven by research to be very beneficial in the long run.

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