There are many obvious benefits of being bilingual in today’s globalized world, but now modern science is beginning to show that bilingualism improves cognitive skills not only related to language. So throw out the antiquated 20th century notion that learning a second language will hinder your child’s intellectual development; Here’s why multilingual children are getting the upper hand:
“From a very young age, children who are bilingual are using their executive control system and in a way that advances its development,” says Dr. Ellen Bialystok ,a cognitive neuroscientist and Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University in Toronto. The executive control system is, “the basis for every hard thing we do. It helps us pay attention to this and ignore that,” says Dr. Bialystok, adding, “It’s precisely the system the brain calls on to pay attention to one language over the other.”
This means bilingual children constantly use their executive control systems to switch between languages. And frequently exercising this function makes bilinguals better at planning, focusing, multitasking and problem solving. This doesn’t mean bilinguals have a higher I.Q., but it does mean their executive control systems are more advanced.
For example, in Bialystok’s 2004 study with Martin-Rhee, bilingual children were faster than monolingual children at sorting objects into bins by shape despite conflicting colors. Bilingual children ignored distractions, because their executive control systems are more developed. This skill translates into directing attention away from everyday distractions as well; from noises while driving to classroom chatter during a lecture.
“This back and forth switching [between languages] is a strengthening agent for the brain,” says Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences and Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood. Dr. Kuhl even goes so far as to say bilingualism, “allows you, in those frontal areas, to make decisions better, to be more creative in your thinking and it’s protective against age or brain disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
Children are language-learning machines, but this skill declines as they reach their teen years. Therefore, now is the best time to immerse your child in a second language! Enroll your child in a fun, engaging summer camp like the Hebrew Dual Language Summer Camp at the Kings Bay Y and they will have a bilingual blast!