Tennessee children deserve the bilingual advantage
At Confidence Learning Services, we always talk about the advantages for children of being bilingual, but it seems that many Tennessee parents are more concerned about dance lessons, soccer practice, scouts, or any number of other activities. And why shouldn’t they be? All of those activities have great advantages as well, so what are the specific advantages to childhood bilingualism?
Not only is being bilingual more likely to be useful in your child’s future career than being able to pirouette or knowing off sides rules, it gives them plenty of other advantages as well. Here are just a few:
1. Bilingual Children in Tennessee can focus better.
Bilingual children have better focus and disregard distractions in the environment. The part of the brain called the executive function, used for planning, judgment, working memory, problem solving and staying focused on what’s relevant is stronger in bilinguals. Every time you speak, both languages are actually active, and the brain has to work to suppress one language while the other is being used. That mechanism employs the executive function of the brain more regularly in bilinguals and therefore it becomes more efficient. This ability starts very young in bilingual babies.
2. Multitasking is better if you’re bilingual.
Turns out, bilingual kids can switch from one activity to another faster and are better at multitasking than monolinguals. Again, that’s related to the executive function of the brain, which gives bilinguals better cognitive control over information that allows them to switch tasks.
3. Bilingual children in Tennessee are more flexible and creative.
Studies show that bilinguals have increased mental flexibility and creativity. When you learn there is more than one word for an object, it stretches the mind in new ways and gives children greater mental flexibility and creativity as they have two windows through which they view the world. Russian psychologist Vygotsky stated that “bilingualism frees the mind from the prison of concrete language and phenomena” (Hakuta, 1985).
4. What about tests in English? Bilingual children score better.
Bilingual children in dual-immersion schools have been shown in one study to score higher on both verbal and math standardized tests conducted in English.
One study in Florida on students from 16 elementary schools showed that bilingual students scored significantly higher in both the math and verbal sections of the Florida standardized test than monolinguals, an average of 23-34 points higher than their monolingual classmates.
5. Tennessee parents, ever wish your kids were more logical?
Bilingual children display stronger logic skills and are better equipped than monolinguals at solving certain mental puzzles.
In a 2004 study , bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares into two bins on their computer, one with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle. Children were first asked to sort by color, placing blue circles in the bin for blue squares and red squares in the bin for red circles. Both groups performed this task equally well. But when the children were asked to sort by shape, not color, the bilinguals performed the task with greater ease than monolinguals. It’s executive function once again – bilingual children can more easily suppress learning an old rule in favor of a new one.
6. Just bilingual? Not for long.
Scientific research, demonstrates that after conquering two languages, adding a third, fourth, and fifth language aren’t nearly as difficult. Just ask any language teacher who has taught Tennessee students who are already bilingual a third language, vs. their monolingual peers.
7. Catch you later, Alzheimer’s.
The advantages of being bilingual carry over throughout your life, whether you stay in Tennessee or move to another state or country. That’s because bilingualism alters your brain chemistry, which has been linked to staving off the onset of alzheimer’s.
Of course, these benefits only come with true bilingualism. Exposing your child to a second language by watching TV shows and movies in another language or going to class for 30 minutes a week won’t result in your child being bilingual without lots of support on your part. But it can be done! I’ll discuss raising bilingual children – including a guide for monolingual parents – in my next blog.