If you google ‘bilingualism benefits’ you’ll find a number of interesting hits. What’s particularly interesting is the way that research in the field is slowly but surely trickling out to the public.
Consider this article from 2004 by the APA about a study that appeared in Psychology and Aging:
(“Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task,” Ellen Bialystok, Ph.D., and Mythili Viswanathan, M.A., York University; Fergus I. M. Craik, Ph.D., Rotman Research Institute; Raymond Klein, Ph.D., Dalhousie University; Psychology and Aging, Vol. 19, No. 2.)
You can find the same article discussed in layman’s terms in the Washington Post in the same month in the same year.
In the Washington Post, the following quote appeared:
“The team, led by Ellen Bialystok at York University, hypothesized that the ability to hold two languages in the mind at the same time, without allowing words and grammar from one to slip into the other, might account for the greater control needed to perform well on the Simon task. An alternate hypothesis is that bilinguals have superior working memories for storing and processing information.”
The APA’s article, on the other hand, discusses “distractability” and says that bilingualism curbs the “age-related decline in the efficiency of inhibitory processing.”
Hopefully articles like the one in the Washington Post will help inform those who are in a position to affect language policy. The challenge, then, will be continuing the dialogue.