Until recently, many misconceptions about bilingualism in children were pervasive in today’s society. Parents and educators warned against the exposure of a second language to children, in fear of language skill delays or impaired cognitive development. In spite of these mistaken notions, it has been suggested that bilingualism may play the opposite role in children; being bilingual may give children an advantage over their monolingual peers.
Bilingual children have been shown to excel at tasks that their monolingual peers may struggle accomplishing, such as concentration exercises and tuning out distractions. Although few scholars today would claim that second language acquisition in children is harmful—both cognitively and emotionally—it is necessary to debunk the myths that have invaded the thoughts of parents and educators in past years.
According to neuropsychologist Tamr Gollan of the University of Califorina, San Diego, the benefits of bilingualism are remarkable. Scientists led by Gollan discovered that bilingual individuals are more resistant than others to the onset of dementia–a major symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, a 2009 study demonstrated that bilingual infants outperformed their monolinguals peers in tasks involving cognitive switching, e.g. switching their gazes in the direction of a new object presented to them.
Who knew that language could be such a powerful tool? Have a look at this recent New York Times article about the benefits of bilingualism.