Study highlights benefits of bilingualism

A new University study could give teachers valuable insights into the way bilingual children think.

Antonella Sorace

The research builds on previous studies which show that bilingual speakers find it easier to block out potential distractions, enabling them to focus better on a range of tasks.

It also reveals that bilinguals may take longer to disengage from the task they are focusing on.

However, researchers are keen to stress that bilinguals are only a split second slower than monolinguals in switching attention to a new task.

Understanding the benefits

The number of bilingual families in the UK is growing rapidly through immigration, and more than 160 languages are spoken in Scotland’s schools.

Researchers say the rising bilingual population means it is more important than ever that teachers understand the benefits of bilingualism.

The findings, from a multidisciplinary team of researchers including neuroscientists and linguists, are soon to be published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Many parents and teachers still think that bilingualism can cause confusion and intellectual delay in children. In reality, there are no such drawbacks and this research shows that bringing children up bilingually could have further benefits besides being able to speak two languages.

Antonella SoraceProfessor of Developmental Linguistics

Bilingualism Matters

Professor Sorace is the leader of Bilingualism Matters, a University of Edinburgh-based information service run by a group of researchers who work on language development and bilingualism in children and adults.

Bilingualism Matters aims to bridge the gap between researchers and bilingual families and teachers in order to ensure more children benefit from bilingualism.