Bilingual Toddlers Better at Paying Attention

It’s definitely easier for young children and toddlers to learn a second language than it is for adults. And many scientific studies have hinted that learning a second language offers cognitive benefits, too.

A new study described in Science Daily shows that starting a second language as early as possible also helps toddlers focus on screening out distractions when asked to perform simple tasks.

The study looked at 63 toddlers, some of whom had parents who spoke English only, and others whose bilingual parents spoke both English and French at home. The goal was to see how well the toddlers had been able to build up a vocabulary in each language, as well as to see if switching back and forth from English and French had any impact on cognitive development.

Diane Poulin-Dubois, a psychology professor from Concordia University and a senior researcher for the study, described the findings to Science Daily:

“By 24 months, we found bilingual children had already acquired a vocabulary in each of their two languages and gained some experience in switching between English or French. We found the cognitive benefits of bilingualism come much earlier than reported in previous studies.”

What were the “cognitve benefits?” According to Dr. Poulin-Dubois:

“Bilingual children outperformed their unilingual counterparts on tasks where they were distracted. The small bilingual advantage that we observed in our 24-month-old bilinguals is probably due to a combination of infants’ experience listening to and using their two languages.”

So, if you choose to raise your children bilingually, your child may have a slight edge when it comes to paying attention and screening out distractions. Since today’s lifestyle is so hectic and the pressure to multitask is so intense, that’s probably a good thing!

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