Benefits of Code-Switching


In some regions code-switching has sometimes been discouraged among children. However, a study conducted by Yow Wei Quin, assistant professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), demonstrates how this phenomenon is not at all bad. Children who spoke English and Mandarin were studied. The children’s speech competencies were measured in both languages. One of the findings demonstrated how the children who frequently code-switched between English and Mandarin were found to have a better command of the second language. They were able to express themselves better in Mandarin and possessed higher vocabulary. Assistant Professor Yow also expects to expand her research of switching between other mother tongue languages and measuring language competencies through the analysis of syntax. The Bilingualism Research Lab, at the University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the few labs conducting more research on this code-switching phenomenon. Findings similar to these should help parents encourage their children to code-switch between two languages.

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Cognitive Advantages of Second Language Immersion Education


Recently, York University professor Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues Kathleen F. Peets and Sylvain Moreno studied the development of metalinguistic awareness in children becoming bilingual in an immersion education program. Their study focused on whether children who attend immersion programs show the same kind of advantages in cognitive skills, as children who are early bilinguals. The authors concluded that the advantages previously reported for early bilingual children could already be detected in children learning another language in an immersion program.

Belgian scientists Anne-Catherine Nicolay and Martine Poncelet also examined the possible advantages in executive control that bilingual children show over monolinguals. Although, their findings demonstrated that the immersion children did better than their monolingual counterparts, there was a negative finding when it came to interference inhibition.

Similarly, Ellen Bialystok and Raluca Barac have written a paper on studies they conducted demonstrating that executive control performance improved with increased experience in a bilingual education environment.

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Mathematics and the Bilingual Brain


Language is an integral part of mathematics. Nicole Y.Y. Wicha, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at University of Texas at San Antonio, and her team of researchers are currently investigating the effects of bilingualism on the ability to perform basic mathematical operations. More specifically, she is examining whether it is the native or spoken language that is used when evaluating multiplication problems. Her original findings supported previous hypotheses that basic math “was hard-wired in the brain in the language in which it was learned.” However, further analysis showed that this was not the case. In fact, data supported that mathematic operations were performed quicker in the language participants were immersed in and spoke in their daily lives. The findings are significant because it helps show that bilingual children are not disadvantaged in comparison to their monolingual counterparts when learning mathematics in school.

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Another interesting example of how bilingualism affects basic mathematics is with the simple task of counting. Blogger Stephen Greene is raising a bilingual family in Brazil. Mr. T (taken to be his young son) is learning to count in both English and Portuguese. What Greene has found is that Mr. T does not confuse numbers in English with those in Portuguese and vice versa. This could be the first sign that he is compartmentalizing the two languages in his brain.

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Bilingual children have a dual-process mind, lower stress levels


It has been proposed that in addition to bilingual children having an enhanced ability to process sounds, that they also use two completely separate sound systems to learn languages. In his latest studies, researcher Skott Freedman of Ithaca College has examined sound sets in English/Spanish-speaking bilingual children. Freedman’s results confirmed the dual-process learning ability, which dives deeper into how bilingual children pick up languages so quickly. His research also showed that bilingual children not only learn two different words at the same time, but they keep these words completely separate within their inner thought process. Until now, many parents worried that exposing their child to multiple languages would lead to confusion and frustration. However, with this new data, parents should rest assured that their child will actually benefit from bilingualism. Further research conducted at Northwestern University provides additional support for the benefits of bilingualism in children, some of which include:

• Improved attention to detail
• Ability to focus on important details
• Early onset of conflict management skills
• Improved memory
• Improved executive control
• Protection against certain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease
• Lessening of symptoms associated with cognitive decline
• Improved social skills
• Reduced stress
• Reduced risk for depression

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Federal bilingualism must not be allowed to slide


In Canada, The Official Languages Act gives English and French equal status in the country’s government. Fostering bilingualism is something the nation has prided itself in since it was enacted in September of 1969. The bilingual status promoted in the Act is one of the defining features of the nation’s identity, and it has been a crucial factor in the preservation of national unity. In his latest report, Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, declared that there has been a general decline in bilingualism in the federal public service. Fraser found instances of negligence in even the highest rankings of the Canadian government, where English was becoming the go-to-language in what was becoming a unilingual system. The government will need to find a way to enhance its policy in order to preserve Canadian law, policy and excellence.

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Bilingualism can delay the onset of dementia

New research conducted by Nizam’s Institutes of Medical Sciences in India suggests that bilingualism can delay the onset of three types of dementia: frontotemporal, vascular, and Alzheimer’s disease. Of the patients studied who were diagnosed with dementia, over half were bilingual. These patients’ records showed that they had developed dementia, on average, 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. Interestingly enough, the researchers also found that literacy did not play a factor in the delay period. How bilingualism actually slows the effects of dementia is still unclear, however. The science behind the mechanism of action is certain to be the next phase of research.

The original article can be found here: