How Being Bilingual Benefits Children | Lifestyles
Bilingualism has long been advantageous for adults who love to travel. The ability to speak a foreign language fluently can ease travelers’ anxieties when visiting a new country, and can also help professionals advance their careers and expand their networks. But the benefits of bilingualism are not exclusive to adults.
According to Waterford.org, a 501©(3) organization that seeks to combine aspects of science learning, mentoring relationships, and innovative technologies to support learners, bilingualism benefits students in multiple ways.
• Bilingualism is advantageous for beginning readers. Waterford.org reports that bilingualism has long suffered from a misconception that knowing two languages makes learning to read difficult. However, a 2012 article in Cerebrum magazine noted that bilingual students develop metalinguistic skills at an earlier age than most other children. Metalinguistics is the understanding of the structure of a language both verbally and in writing. Waterford.org notes that linguists believe that exposing bilingual children to multiple languages at a young age sharpens their ability to understand word structure, helping them develop the tools to learn to read faster than their monolingual peers. .
• Bilingualism improves children’s vocabulary. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that bilingual children have a larger vocabulary than monolingual children. Because of this increased familiarity with words, spelling and learning the alphabet comes more naturally to young bilinguals.
• Bilingualism can improve attention span and working memory. A 2010 review published in the Review of Educational Research found that bilingual students generally have stronger working memory and attention spans than monolingual students. Working memory is an executive function of the brain that holds new information in place so that the brain can use it and ultimately connect it to other information. A good working memory is a significant advantage for students, as is a longer attention span.
• Bilingualism affects students’ self-discipline and perseverance. Self-discipline and the ability to persevere can benefit students as they learn to study and work to understand potentially complex topics. A 2011 study published in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology found that bilingual students outperformed their monolingual counterparts in tasks that required self-discipline, persistence, and other skills.
Long considered detrimental to learning to read in young students, bilingualism has since been shown to do the exact opposite. This is just one of the many ways that fluency in two or more languages benefits students.