The Bilingual Advantage | Scientific American Mind

Many parents would like their children to master a second language, but few kids in this country do. Only 9 percent of adults in the U.S.
are fluent in more than one language. In Europe that figure is closer to 50 percent. “The United States is a long way from being the multilingual society that so many of our economic competitors are,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a meeting on foreign-language education last December.

Part of the problem is that American students are often not exposed to a second language until high school, and even then foreign-language training is rarely compulsory. Numerous studies have shown that children are more likely to learn a second language if they begin early, but in 2008 only a quarter of elementary schools in the U.S. offered some form of foreign-language instruction, according to the Department of Education.

This practice largely stems from the belief that teaching a child a foreign tongue too young could lead to verbal mistakes and delays because of interference between the two languages. In recent years, however, scientists have found the opposite: being raised bilingual may actually facilitate the development of certain language and cognitive skills. These aptitudes include mental flexibility, abstract thinking and working memory, a type of short-term memory essential for learning and problem solving...

Scientific American Mind | Erica Westly | Read Article


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