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Study: Bilingual Children are Better at Switching Between Tasks

Jennifer Harrington

Time to add another reason why raising a bilingual child is beneficial: Science Daily reports a Canadian study found that bilingual children switch tasks faster than children who speak only one language. 

Plus: Teaching Your Baby to be Bilingual

The study asked 104 children, varying from English-speaking monolinguals to those of Chinese-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals, and Spanish-English bilinguals to respond to images of animal or colors on computers. The children had the same rate of response when dealing with one category at a time, but when the categories switched back and forth, bilingual children were the quicker responders.

Plus: Two Languages—Is it Too Confusing?

 Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., of the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (which provided funding for the study), further explained the findings to Science Daily: “In simplest terms, the switching task is an indicator of the ability to multi-task. Bilinguals have two sets of language rules in mind, and their brains apparently are wired to toggle back and forth between them depending on the circumstances."

Plus: Teach Your Baby Sign Language

Although the study concluded bilinguals have an advantage when it comes to multitasking, it also found that bilinguals are slower to acquire vocabulary than monolinguals because bilinguals are constantly switching between languages.

Are you raising your child bilingual?