Hearing Bilingual - the benefits of foreign languages for kids

The New York Times recently published "Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Tell Language Apart." The demand for education programs focusing on foreign languages is growing among parents with young children, who are realizing both the cognitive and social benefits of their children growing up multilingual.

The New York Times published the results of a new research, in which researchers at the University of Washington calculated the electrical brain responses of "monolingual" babies (those from homes where one language was being spoken) against those from bilingual households.

"…the researchers found that at 6 months, the monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard."

Over the last 10 years, Dr Ellen Bialystok, a distinguished research Professor of Psychology at York University in Toronto, has shown that bilingual children, such as when kids learn Spanish, develop crucial skills in addition to their double vocabularies: for instance, learning different ways to solve logic problems or to handle multitasking, skills that are often considered part of the brain's so-called executive function.

These higher-level cognitive abilities are localized to the frontal and prefrontal cortex in the brain. "Overwhelmingly, children who are bilingual from early on have precocious development of executive function," Dr. Bialystok said.

Little Pim's language learning programs, for instance their Spanish for Kids DVD set, allows families, even those not bilingual, to do this easily.

Read the entire article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/health/views/11klass.html?_r=1&smid=fb-nytimes

Were you exposed to foreign languages as a kid? Share your stories with us!