New Studies Highlight the Educational Value of Bilingualism

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Since we live in the age of globalization, it’s only natural for today’s parents to wonder about their offspring’s chances at future gainful employment. The job market has seen better days and the shortage of new positions makes those on the look-out for a paycheck want to stand out and be as competitive as possible. In this context, many have touted the benefits of language learning, as a sure fire way to increase one’s odds at getting a job. Yet learning a new language is often a complicated process, with many elements yet inexplicable to teachers, linguistics academics, and students alike. Two studies come to the aid of learners, their parents, and their educators, in order to highlight an aspect of learning new language which have been under explored thus far: a bilingual education.

Send your kids to schools with bilingual programs

A recent study, undertaken on elementary school-level children in Texas, has revealed that all students benefit from attending a school with bilingual learning programs. Yes, this also includes children who don’t attend the programs per se. The study was undertaken by a group of researchers, which includes an academic from the University of Michigan, as well. While it did not look into the exact causes for this reality, the study nonetheless revealed that students in bilingual schools have better performance on state math and reading tests than students not enrolled in schools with bilingual language learning programs.

According to federal legislation, schools are mandated to educate students with limited proficiency in English by special standards: either by teaching them English as a second language (i.e. offering them instruction in their native language, as well), or by providing bilingual education, which has them learning in a separate classroom from the rest of the students. In Texas, classrooms with 20 or more students who are all non-native English language speakers, have to offer bilingual education. And this seems to benefit everyone, not just the non-native speakers.

Studies Highlight the Educational Value of Bilingualism

Bilingual education offers life-long benefits

If, as an adult, you want to take up the study of a new language, you can always check out the Time Warner Cable Boston for online courses or TV-based educational programs. They can provide assistance and resources for honing your Spanish, French, or even Chinese skills. At the same time, a study completed by a psychologist from the University of British Columbia shows that, had you received a bilingual education, you would have found it much easier to distinguish between foreign languages, even without any previous exposure to those languages. The research was carried out on infants aged 4, 6, and 8 months, born and raised in households where both Spanish and Catalan were spoken on the regular. Previous studies had shown that infants have the ability to distinguish between foreign languages up until the age of 6 months old, but lose this skill by the time they reach 8 months.

This new study shows that kids brought up in a bilingual environment still have the capacity to tell French apart from English, even if they’ve never heard them before. They do so by accurately interpreting the facial cues of the speakers: they have a skill that the researchers call ‘perceptual vigilance’. They are far more adept at this skill than non-bilingual babies. What the study ultimately proves is that human babies are born ‘ready’ to be brought up bilingual, just as much as they have the capacity to learn one language after they are born. The benefits of learning more than a single language, though, continue to be seen throughout the course of their lives, which might determine many parents to adopt this upbringing strategy in their own households.

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