Bilingualism builds a solid foundation of cognitive development when introduced during early childhood education.
Cognitive benefits associated with bilingual experience seem to start quite early—researchers have shown bilingualism to positively influence attention and conflict management in infants as young as seven months.
The cognitive and neurological benefits of bilingualism extend from early childhood to old age as the brain more efficiently processes information and staves off cognitive decline.
Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.Any activity that we make use of to understand the world around comes under the category of cognitive activities. Cognitive skills are used to comprehend, process, remember and apply incoming information. Cognitive skills include attention, short- term memory, long-term memory, logic, auditory processing, visual processing, and processing speed. They are the skills the brain uses to think, learn, read, remember, pay attention, and solve problems.
Bilinguals enjoy far sharper cognitive skills, keeping the brain constantly active and alert even when only one language prevails. Studies conducted on preschoolers revealed that those exposed to two languages performed far better on sorting puzzles, both in speed and success.
Cognitive flexibility is linked with educational satisfaction and is a prominent trait of bilinguals. Strong cognitive flexibility improves school readiness and learning abilities. Children who exhibited cognitive flexibility, were more motivated to learn, displayed less behavioral problems and interacted better with their peers.
Bilinguals are more adept at problem solving. Researchers in Canada have been investigating how the ability to speak more than one language affects problem-solving skills in toddlers. What they’ve found is that bilingual children, who become accustomed to switching between different tongues as required, demonstrate greater mental flexibility than monolinguals when it comes to certain types of mental exercises.
Perhaps it is due to this mental flexibility that bilingual children have higher intelligence. In a study, bilingual children proved to be more intelligent than those who speak just one language.
According to the researchers, the switching between languages in different contexts, the ability to do so, pays off in relation to resolving conflict tasks, where people need to override a rule they previously learned to complete a contrasting objective.Studies show that children with a second language are able to develop more control over behavior, have longer attention spans and more mental flexibility, which allows them to focus better on tasks.
Bilingualism supports skills that are specific to executive function: careful attention to the target language, suppressing the non-target language and effectively switching between languages.
Scientists think that the brains of bilingual children adapt to this constant coactivation of two languages and are therefore different to the brains of monolinguals.
Research on the brain shows that the brain of a child who speaks a second language has cognitive enhancements. In fact in one study, brain scans showed that people who spoke only one language had to work harder to focus on a single word.
A bilingual child has two sets of vocabulary and regularly makes use of two languages, whereas a monolingual is someone that regularly makes use of one language. To regularly make use of two languages is more cognitively demanding than to make use only of one language. Bilinguals are forced into a cognitive flexible behavior when they shift from one language to another. This shifting behavior has led to a hypothesis that bilinguals have their cognitive abilities shaped, which results in having a special mental advantage compare to monolinguals who don’t experience the shifting of languages. If this hypothesis is true, it would mean that being a bilingual is beneficial for confronting the demands of society.
Bilingualism has been associated with improved metalinguistic awareness (the ability to recognize language as a system that can be manipulated and explored), as well as with better memory, visual-spatial skills, and even creativity.
Essentially, bilingualism have more refined cognitive development that form a basis for processing more complex tasks and learning processes throughout the rest of their life.