Some interesting recent research in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology tested whether bilingualism in early childhood and adulthood affects people’s ability to process information and pay attention. Quite fun, and backs up a lot of other research we’ve posted about bilingual children basically being cleverer – thanks to the way the brain develops when working in 2 languages.
The researchers (Yang and Yang) looked at the effect of bilingualism on the attention system in a group of children and adults, some of whom spoke only English and some of whom spoke both English and Korean bilingually. They used a test that measures attention called the child Attention Network Test (ANT) for the children, and another called the adult ANT for the grownups.
What they found was that being bilingual produced positive effects on attention in both children and adults. The key gains were in global processing levels of inverse efficiency, response time, and accuracy. The bilingual children showed greater levels of benefit than the adults in all these areas. One very interesting conclusion was that the bilingual children achieved an adult level of accuracy in tests that measured attentional skills to cope with interferences. When you are working in 2 languages it makes sense that your ability to disregard un-needed information swiftly is well-developed. Those of us at la Academia who interpret have developed skills in listening to one language whilst speaking in another – this requires almost a “tunnel hearing” and sharp focus on needed information only – it seems from the research that bilingual children develop this skill early.
Yet another reason to give your children the gift of languages! Encourage them to try languages and expose them to a range of languages while they are young – you are helping them to develop their brains and the effects will have a positive impact in many areas of their lives . If you know a young person who’d like to try a language, or who needs to pay better attention, a quick call to 0161 491 1444 will get them started!