This article examines the benefits and differences of bilingual children’s linguistic and cognitive development.
Background: This article examines the benefits and differences of bilingual children’s linguistic and cognitive development.
Methodology and Participants: The authors of this study tested 104 six year olds, attending public school in Toronto, on multitasking ability as well as vocabulary development and acquisition of grammar rules. Participants included monolingual English speaking children, Spanish-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals, and Chinese-English bilinguals.
Conclusion: Results revealed that bilingual children were significantly more capable in the multitasking measure and metalinguistic awareness measures, but their vocabulary and grammar developed more slowly, likely, because the bilingual children were learning two sets of vocabulary and two grammar systems. It was also noted that monolingual and bilingual participants came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds, unlike many previous studies comparing language abilities between monolingual and bilingual children. This is important in teasing out effects of bilingualism versus socioeconomic status in language measures.
Relevance to the Field: This research proves that bilingualism is in no way harmful for a child. Bilingualism has no effect on one’s intelligence and positive effects on many aspects of development. Unfortunately, many professionals erroneously believe that bilingualism may be detrimental to children’s cognitive and linguistic development. Clinicians should be aware of the current research regarding bilingualism for their clients, especially those who are from culturally and linguistically diverse homes. Clinicians should believe and advocate to others that bilingualism benefits many aspects of development such as metalinguistic awareness and cognitive skills. Additionally, assessment of vocabulary (semantic) growth should bear in mind that the child is learning two sets of vocabulary. Clinicians should have the information and tools available to help families support linguistic development of all languages that are important to the family.
Barac, R., & Bialystok, E. (2011). Cognitive development of bilingual children. Language Teaching, 44(1), 36-54.