Children who grow up speaking two languages are better atmultitasking than children who only learn one language, according to a studypublished in the journal Child Development and reported by HealthDay News.
For the study, researchers at the University of York inToronto recruited 104 children, all age 6, some of whom spoke only English, andsome of whom were bilingual—speaking either Chinese and English, French andEnglish, or Spanish and English. The children were asked to press a computerkey when they saw a series of images of either animals or colors.
Researchers found that when the images were only in onecategory, all the children responded at the same speed. However, when thechildren had to switch between images of animals and images of colors, andpress different buttons for each category, the bilingual children were faster thanchildren who only spoke English.
“In simplest terms, the switching task is an indicator ofthe ability to multitask,” said Peggy McCardle, chief of the Child Developmentand Behavior Branch at the National Institutes of Health. “Bilinguals have twosets of language rules in mind, and their brains apparently are wired to toggleback and forth between them depending on the circumstances.”
However, though bilingual children excelled in multitasking,they fell behind in vocabulary. Researchers found that English-only speakingchildren had the highest test scores on vocabulary, grammar and word meaningtests, while bilingual kids were slower to build their vocabulary.
Researchers believe this is because English-only speakingchildren were able to focus more on those skills while bilingual children hadto divide their time learning two languages.