A recent study led by researchers from the University of York (Canada) has suggested that six month old babies raised in a bilingual environment will display a better attention span in comparison to babies brought up with one language.
Perhaps you were raised bilingually or you are currently trying to raise your children bilingually. For the last decade there has been much debate about the advantages of a bilingual environment during childhood. Of course one of the main debates is that bilingualism helps people learn more languages. One thing is clear, raising your children with two languages doesn’t seem to have any disadvantages. However does a bilingual environment at home have advantages for your child’s cognitive development? A recent study has suggested that this is the case. The details of the study were published in the journal, Developmental Science.
Measuring the attention span of a infant
This new research is based specifically on two studies of six-month-old infants. The study aimed to measure their ability to control their attention. Researchers aimed to do this by following the young children’s eye movements as they watched images appear on a screen. When an image is disturbed, the baby’s attention can be measured by the speed with which they recognise and anticipate changes in each image. It appeared that if the child’s parents spoke one or more languages at home it affected their ability in anticipating a change.
“They seem to eventually anticipate the image to the right, by moving their eyes even before the image appears to the right,” says Scott Adler, co-author of the study. “What we found was that infants raised in bilingual environments were able to anticipate better than those raised in a monolingual environment. “
More complex environment
Thanks to these results, it is easy to imagine that simply being raised in a bilingual environment from birth could lead to cognitive benefits for children. These benefits could even be present before they are able to speak. “What’s really innovative in these results is that they are looking at infants who are not yet bilingual,” the researcher continues. They only “hear” the bilingual environment. However it seems to have an impact on their cognitive performance.”
Researchers suggest that this involvement a more complex environment where the child has to process two languages could explain their better control of attention. Nevertheless, sample sizes were very small and so could not definitively make this link. However it is cleat that there are no disadvantages of speaking two languages at home.