A new study finds that babies who are raised in bilingual environments develop their core cognitive skills, like problem-solving and decision-making, even before they start to speak.
The study was performed at the University of Washington and it included 16 babies – half from English-speaking families, and the other half from Spanish-and-English-speaking families.
The researchers exposed the babies to different speech sounds – from preverbal speech to more specific English and Spanish sounds. During the process, they were monitoring how the babies responded to the different sounds by using magnetoencephalography (MEG), that helped them to identify the parts of the babies’ brain that were activated.
They found that those babies coming from Spanish-and-English-speaking families had many activities in the orbitofrontal and the prefrontal cortex – the parts of the brain that are responsible for problem-solving and decision-making processes.
“Our results suggest that before they even start talking, babies raised in bilingual households are getting practice at tasks related to executive function,” said Naja Ferjan Ramirez, the lead author of the study. “Babies raised listening to two languages seem to stay ‘open’ to the sounds of novel languages longer than their monolingual peers, which is a good and highly adaptive thing for their brains to do,” said the co-author of the study Patricia Kuhl.
Another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, have proved that bilingual parents have more developed executive brain functions that parents who speak one language.
This means that bilingual parents are better to recall memories, more able to switch their focus between tasks, and they are better problem-solvers and planners. Their children demonstrate these skills too.
Plus, their developed executive brain functions play a key role in their success in school and their happiness as well due to their academic success. Even more so, learning a second language may even prevent some degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer or dementia.
And the best part is that you can raise your child to be bilingual even if you are not. Here are some valuable tips on how to do it.
1. If you are bilingual already or coming from a bilingual family, then try with the method “one parent, one language.” In other words, decide which parent will speak which language to the baby and stick to it.
2. If you are not bilingual, don’t worry. You can still raise your children to be bilingual. You can start by exposing your child to foreign words every day or watching a bilingual show together. You only need to be consistent.
3. You should also try using a Language Exchange community whenever you have a chance. This is an excellent opportunity for both you and your child to speak another language with native speakers of that language.
So, get out there and reap all the cognitive benefits of being bilingual!
Mary Wright is a professional writer with more than 10 years of incessant practice. Her topics of interest gravitate around the fields of the human mind and the interpersonal relationships of people.