Méid an Téacs

Children with two languages excel at school

Aibreán 18, 2017

Children who are brought up speaking two or more languages outperform their peers in English and maths by the age of seven, research has found.

Data on 19,000 British children in the Millennium Cohort Study found that those who spoke more than one language at home lagged behind at school at ages three, four and five. However, they then powered ahead, leaving behind those who spoke only English.

The findings suggest that teachers and the government should encourage parents to use their native tongue at home. The research was conducted by Anita Staneva at the University of Sydney and will be presented today at the annual conference of the Royal Economics Society in Bristol.

It suggests a wider benefit to children of speaking a foreign language, Dr Staneva said, adding that parents often think those children are at a disadvantage because one or both of their parents are non native speakers and so compensate by doing extra work with them.

Other research has shown speaking two difference languages from an early age actually helps shape the brain. Technological advances have allowed researchers to investigate how bilingualism interacts with the neurological system. It has emerged that in order to maintain the balance between two languages, a bilingual child relies heavily on “executive function”, the control room which organises the rest of the brain.

This constant practice strengthens the control mechanisms which lead to better learning capabilities, problem solving, memory and other skills later on.

One study found the “executive function” was more developed among children from bilingual homes even from the time when they are babies, simply because of listening to two different languages.

Foinse: The Times