Historically it was thought that learning a second language when young could lead to ‘language confusion’ and be detrimental to a child’s academic growth. However recent studies have been proving this stigma wrong time and again in recent years. Studies have shown that it can increase a child’s communication and social interaction abilities above those who can’t speak a second language . There are also medical benefits with studies of later life adults who know a second language showing that it can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by several years .
Previous research has been backed up this weekend when a study into primary school pupils aged 9 was published in the International Journal of Bilingualism. 121 children, 62 of which were bilingual, were involved in the study from both Scotland and Sardinia. Those children who were not bilingual knew either English or Italian alone. Those who were bilingual knew either English and Gaelic or Italian and Sardinian.
The study showed that bilingual children outperform children who only speak one language in creative thinking and problem solving skills. Dr Fraser Lauchlan, a lecturer at Strathclyde University, who conducted the test along with their Sardinian colleagues at the University of Cagliari said, “Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children, but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them.” Adding “ our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively.”
The study not only found that both English-Gaelic and Italian-Sardinian speakers outperformed their monolingual counter parts, it also showed that those English-Gaelic speakers out performed those who spoke Italian and Sardinian. The study concluded that the differences could be attributed due to Gaelic speakers having formal teaching lessons in the language and extensive literature compared to Sardinian which is not widely taught in schools, surviving by oral tradition, meaning there is no current standardised form of the language.
The study is another great success story adding to the growing call for children to learn languages.