The Benefits of Early Bilingualism

Back to Blog

The Benefits of Early Bilingualism

By Yana Shifrina

Research conducted over the past years has yielded the vast bulk of evidence concerning the benefits of bilingualism. Leikin and Tovli (2014) demonstrated the connection between bilingualism and creativity in early childhood by examining the possible effect of bilingualism on problem-solving creativity in non-mathematical and mathematical tasks. After administering creative-thinking tasks, a verbal fluency test, and equal number tasks, the results revealed that bilingual children had higher scores in nonverbal creative behavior. However, Leikin and Tovli found that monolinguals do better than bilinguals on verbal creativity measures (2014). The investigators concluded that the “relationship between bilingualism and superior divergent skills seemed to relate to the level of language proficiency” (p.412). Overall, the study established that balanced bilingualism had a positive effect on various domains of creativity, such as verbal, general, and mathematical.
In addition, Nicolay and Poncelet (2015) examined cognitive benefits, such as selective attention, flexibility, and interference inhibition, in children enrolled in an early bilingual immersion school. After conducting a longitudinal three-year study on 101 French-speaking preschoolers with two waves of testing of attentional/executive measures, SES, and verbal and nonverbal intelligence measures, the researchers revealed a balanced performance on all attentional/executive tasks among immersed and monolingual children. Furthermore, a series of t-tests showed no difference between the groups of any of the measures, confirming that verbal and nonverbal skills of the two groups were the same. However, after three years, results disclosed that the children who have experienced language immersion outperformed the monolinguals in several attentional/executive tasks. The researchers explained these outcomes by stating that simultaneously learning new academic subjects and acquiring a second language is demanding but could also strengthen several components of the attentional network and boost auditory, divided attention, altering, and flexibility skills among children enrolled in an early bilingual immersion school.
Further, Wattendorf et al. (2014) examined the phenomenon of early bilingualism by comparing and contrasting it with late second language acquisition. The researchers explained that there is currently a need for understanding language control among multilingual children and its connection to the age of acquisition. Therefore, they “investigated the impact of early bilingualism on the organization of cortical language networks during sentence production” (p.49). Four male and four female multilinguals with similar educational backgrounds completed a silent sentence production task and a baseline finger-tapping task receiving feedback and visual cues. Most of the participants, 6 out of 8, acquired L1 and L2 simultaneously. The results of this study revealed that there is an effect of early age of acquisition on brain language representation, suggesting that childhood language experience has a pervasive influence into adulthood.
Such findings emphasize the importance of facilitating multiple opportunities for bilingual education and language immersion.
Author’s Bio
My name is Shifrina-Piljovin, Yana. I have been teaching English as a New (Second) Language both in a public school setting and on a college level in NYC. I received my MS in TESOL in City College, NYC and a Doctorate Degree in Education (Ed.D.), Department of Learning and Teaching majoring in Applied Linguistics from Hofstra University, NY. My research interests focus on bilingualism, bi-literacy, and biculturalism. I can be reached at
Post a new comment
Refresh Image