In this Newsweek article, research suggests that high level use of more than one language greatly improves the brain’s executive function in children as young as 3 or 4 years old. The executive function includes many of the brain’s primary activities like controlling impulses and emotions, flexible thinking, developing your working memory, planning and prioritizing tasks, just to name a few. The key point is that in order for these benefits to be truly realized,both languages need to be used on a regular basis, such as a school environment.
Parents Magazine presents an interesting poll in which57% of parents indicated that “speaking a foreign language was the most critical skill for their child to develop for the future.” With an increasing need to speak more than one language, it is surprising that “only 15% of public elementary schools in the United States teach a foreign language.” There are numerous benefits to speaking two languages. The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that toddlers as young as 24 months’ old has already developed superior cognitive skills.
“Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter.” The New York Times article reports some interesting claims including new research that indicates the cognitive benefits of being multilingual can shield against dementia in old age. Despite age old claims that a second language can cause “interference” in academic and intellectual development; these have not only been proven false, but actually turn out to be “blessing in disguise.” The improved brain function from constantly switching between languages also helps in solving complex mental puzzles, focusing on multiple tasks at once, and more.
The National Institute for Early Education at the Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education has conducted many studies into the benefits of dual language immersion programs especially with regards to preschool aged children. “That period is considered the critical period where the ear is more in tune to certain sounds. That allows them to learn language as quickly as they do,” Figueras-Daniel said. “It makes sense in pre-school is because 3- and 4-year-olds have not mastered English. They are still experimenting with grammar and the structure of language and are learning new vocabulary every day.”
Check out more articles below to learn about bilingualism and its educational benefits.