Bilingual Kids Outthink Single-Language Classmates, Study Says

by Chris Curley on August 6, 2012

Children brought up to speak two languages demonstrate greater problem-solving skills in math and more creativity than children who only speak a single language, a new study led by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland finds.

In a study of 121 children in Scotland and Sardinia, Italy, bilingual children performed better at tasks like reproducing patterns of colored blocks, repeating numbers, solving arithmetic problems mentally, and giving clear definitions of words than their monolingual counterparts, the study shows.

Bilingual children demonstrated a “marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description” when asked to explain their knowledge of words and vocabulary, says lead study author Fraser Lauchlan, Ph.D.

“We also found they had an aptitude for selective attention — the ability to identify and focus on information which is important, while filtering out what is not — which could come from the ‘code-switching’ of thinking in two different languages,” Lauchlan says.

It may well be time to enroll your kids in language classes. In addition to more immediate academic gains, bilingual people are less likely to develop dementia when they’re older, research show.

The study appears online in the International Journal of Bilingualism.

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