A new study conducted by the University of Strathclyde in association with the University of Cagliari, and published in the International Journal of Bilingualism; has found that children who are bilingual also surpass monolingual children in other skill areas.
Two experiments were conducted in Glasgow and Sardinia. Researchers gave a test group of 121 nine year olds different tasks, which were a variety of physical, problem solving, arithmetic and language activities. They found that the 62 bilingual children were significantly more successful in the tasks given to them, and that the Gaelic speakers performed better than the Sardinian speakers.
Dr Fraser Lauchlan, from the University of Strathclyde, said:
“Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them. Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively. We also assessed the children’s vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils.”
The reasons for the differences were given as being linked to the mental alertness required to switch between languages. The Gaelic speakers apparently had an advantage over the Sardinian speakers as Gaelic is formally taught in Scotland, whereas Sardinian as a language is mostly a native oral tradition and is not widely or formally taught in the Italian island of Sardinia.