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What Are The Benefits of a Bilingual Education?

The study of bilingualism and its impact on learning has a long history. In the 1960s, Peal and Lambert conducted tests on French-English speaking children that showed they outperformed their monolingual peers. This study debunked the old notion that speaking a second language is detrimental to intellectual development and “causes confusion to children” (Bialystok & Vinogradova, 2016). Today researchers are constantly finding correlated ideas and connections between bilingualism and other elements, such as intelligence and creativity. Despite some barriers in research due to factors like the level of proficiency in a second language, most educators agree that it is beneficial to be bilingual. 

One study by Leikin (2012) compared bilingual and monolingual kindergarten students and their creative skills in solving mathematical and non-mathematical problems. The children were then divided into the following three language groups:

  • Bilingual children who went to a bilingual school (BB)
  • Bilingual children who went to a monolingual school (BM)
  • Monolingual children who went to a monolingual school (MM)

By using different tests to measure their level of creativity. The results showed that bilingual children were more creative than their monolingual peers. Furthermore, the BB group seemed to present the most significant disparity between the other groupings. Leiken also predicted, in accordance with previous research, that the intellectual differences between monolingual and bilingual children as they age and continue speaking both languages will become more distinct. 

Multilingual children also seem to have the upper hand in their executive control and working memory. Executive control, used interchangeably with “executive function”, is a set of cognitive tools that control cognitive functions, such as working memory, problem-solving, social inhibition, planning, and execution (Boundless Psychology, n.d.). 

Antaniou et al., (2016) performed a study comparing multilingual, bilingual, and monolingual children who were raised speaking Cypriot Greek or Standard Modern Greek. These children were divided into monolingual, bilingual (speakers of CG and SMG), and multilingual (speakers of CG, SMG, and English). After administering tests measuring their working memory, inhibition, and fluid intelligence, it was concluded that multilingual children have similar advantages to bilingual children in terms of their executive control and working memory. 

The results from these studies tell us a lot about the importance of speaking a second language, especially during school years. As the economy progresses, trade and travel increase and scholarships are given to gifted students; it has become evident that having a second language increases the chances of securing both domestic and international scholastic and career opportunities. Stacie Nevadomski Berdan is an author and an international career expert who testified to The New York Times about changes that have been occurring since the 1990s. When she traveled abroad in the 90s, she would speak to her client’s interpreters, but she found that companies were in high demand for bilingual and multilingual candidates. She also highlighted the importance of appreciating and learning about other cultures to better connect with people from different parts of the world (Berdan, 2012). 

Considering these facts, we can see how important it is to learn a second language. Rather than learning a second language for educational purposes, it’s better to look at it from a different perspective. Studying a second language can give you a greater insight into other cultures and brings the world closer together. Diversifying your knowledge not only gives you an advantage when it comes to traveling or getting a job, but it also allows you to meet new people, expand your horizons, and foster your sense of global citizenship.  

Written by Jumana Raggam 

References

Antoniou, K., Grohmann, K. K., Kambanaros, M., & Katos, N. (2016). The Effect of Childhood Bilectalism and Multilingualism on Executive Control. Cognition, 149, 18-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2015.12.002 0010-0277  

Berdan, S. N. (2012, January 29). Being Monolingual Is No Longer an Option. The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/01/29/is-learning-a-language-other-than-english-worthwhile/being-monolingual-is-no-longer-an-option 

Bialystok, E., & Vinogradova, K. (2016, July 11). Bilingualism. Serious Science. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from http://serious-science.org/bilingualism-6172 

Boundless Psychology. (n.d.). Executive Function and Control. Boundless Psychology. Retrieved January 11, 2022, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-psychology/chapter/executive-function-and-control/ 

Leikin, M. (2012). The Effect of Bilingualism on Creativity: Developmental and Educational Perspectives. International Journal of Bilingualism, 17(4), 431-447. DOI:10.1177/1367006912438300

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