Mothers and fathers who have their children religiously enrolled in language classes or immersion programs aren’t just participating in the swanky trend of bilingual children. Well, perhaps some of them are. But it turns out there is actually some considerable cognitive advantages to getting multiple languages into your tot.
In an age when language programs are being frantically cut from even universities, the ability to speak a second language gives children sharp problem-solving and multi-tasking capabilities. “The bilingual experience” also affords kids more opportunities to remain focused on tasks, switch between tasks more efficiently, and remember detailed information. The New York Times reports that even in instances of a bilingual person only speaking one language for a time, both “language systems” are active. The back and forth between the two languages however, isn’t an impediment at all as, “It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.” The Times writes:
The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.
Kids with multiple tongues are also quick and efficient on certain kinds of puzzles due to that strong sense of problem-solving, making this status symbol well worth the money if you happen to have it. But with languages no longer being much of a priority in schools — or even higher education — these findings highlight not just the efforts of trendy parents, but a considerable hole in modern education.