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The Evidence for Bilingualism

Research over the last several decades demonstrates that bilingualism confers many advantages besides just being able to speak another language. These include higher academic achievement, better language and literacy comprehension, greater cognitive skills (such as flexibility in thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving), economic and sociocultural advantages, and even protection from dementia, just to name a few. 

Below is a sampling of recent articles on bilingualism and language immersion:

  • "What Research Tells Us About Immersion" by Tara Williams Fortune. Research on language immersion education demonstrates benefits such as academic achievement, language and literacy development in two or more languages, advanced cognitive skills, and economic and sociocultural advantages.

  • “The Bilingual Advantage” (New York Times) by Claudia Dreifus. Among other benefits, the regular use of two languages appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

  • “Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brainpower” (NPR) by Gretchen Cuda-Kroen. Research suggests that the growing numbers of bilingual speakers may have an advantage that goes beyond communication: It turns out that being bilingual is also good for your brain.

  • “Why Bilinguals Are Smarter” (New York Times) by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. In recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improvingcognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

  • “The Benefits of Multilingualism” (Multilingual Living) by Michal Paradowski. The advantages that multilinguals exhibit over monolinguals are not restricted to linguistic knowledge only, but extend outside the area of language. The substantial long-lived cognitive, social, personal, academic, and professional benefits of enrichment bilingual contexts have been well documented.

  • “Raising Bilingual Children: Common Parental Concerns and Current Research”(research from Georgetown University) by Kendall King and Lyn Fogle. This digest reviews common parental concerns related to bilingual childrearing and shares the current science on bilingual child development.

  • “What Parents Want to Know about Foreign Language Immersion Programs” (research from University of Minnesota) by Tara Fortune and Diane Tedick. Parents who are considering an immersion program for their child usually have many questions. This digest provides introductory responses to some of the questions most commonly posed by parents.

  • “Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language” (New York Times) by Perri Klass, M.D. Once, experts feared that young children exposed to more than one language would suffer “language confusion,” which might delay their speech development. Today, parents often are urged to capitalize on that early knack for acquiring language.

  • “Language Immersion Programs” (PBS) by Britton Redbord and Rachel Sachetti. Children are often able to acquire a foreign language much easier and faster if they begin their course of study at an early age and some research also show that learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and improved listening skills.

  • “Learning Languages ‘Boosts Brain’” (BBC). Learning a second language “boosts” brain-power, scientists believe.

  • “Bilingualism good for the brain, researchers say” (Los Angeles Times) by Amina Khan. The skill helps improve multitasking and prioritizing, and helps ward off early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, experts say.

  • “Foreign Languages Fade in Class – Except Chinese” (New York Times) by Sam Dillon. Thousands of public schools stopped teaching foreign languages in the last decade, according to government-financed survey, while a rush by schools in all parts of America to offer instruction in Chinese.

  • “The Astounding Effectiveness of Dual Language Education for All” (research from George Mason University) by Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas. This is a research report and a wakeup call to the field of bilingual education.

  • "Behaves So Strangely" an interesting story from NPR about language and musicality. Research demonstrates that speakers of tone languages, such as Mandarin, are exponentially more likely to have perfect pitch.

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