Bilingual children have ‘better thinking skills’, study finds

Saturday 9th October 2021 6:00 am
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Athanasia Papastergiou, lecturer in the linguistics department of Bangor University

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Researchers have been using innovative ways to examine thinking skills in school-aged Greek-English bilingual children in the UK and found superior thinking skills compared to children who only spoke one language.

Athanasia Papastergiou, lecturer in the linguistics department of Bangor University is lead author on a publication into the study. Published in the journal Behavior Research Methods, it presents a breakthrough in the field of bilingual thought processes. By introducing a radical new method, researchers were able to measure children’s thinking skills more accurately and comprehensively than ever before.

Findings show that bilingual children are on average 6.5 per cent more efficient in their thinking skills than monolingual children.

Athanasia said: “It is very exciting to develop this new approach to the study of bilingual children. I hope these positive results will help to allay any possible fears about bringing up children bilingually and highlight the benefits of doing so.”

The research team, in collaboration with Dr Vasileios Pappas from the University of Kent, achieved its breakthrough by adapting methodology from the field of economics to the study of bilingualism.

The project analysed data from children educated through the medium of both Greek and English in UK schools, in comparison with monolingual children.

Eirini Sanoudaki, senior lecturer in linguistics and senior academic in the project, said: “There is an obvious advantage in being able to communicate in more than one language; our findings show learning two languages can have even more benefits for children’s development.

“We asked children, for example, to remember and repeat as many numbers as they can, to ignore irrelevant information, and to shift quickly between different tasks: bilingual children were better overall than monolingual children.

“These results are important for us here in Wales and indeed for bilingual communities across the world.”

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