The power of bilingualism on children's cognitive skills

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A study published in Brain Structure and Function highlighted the power of bilingualism in children, who become adults not only more aware but also with more gray matter, a more healthy brain system and less chance of developing Alzheimer's. Does bilingualism strengthen the brain? The researchers are sure: the complexity of the skills acquired by learning and speaking a second language as a child are equivalent to those activated by learning to play a musical instrument. The benefits of bilingualism for children are undeniable as early as school age, but this research aims to understand the long-term effects. And while bilingualism at an early age helps develop intelligence, researchers say it also has a physical impact on the brain, its structure and endurance.

In this article

  • Bilingualism strengthens children's brains, study results
  • The myths of bilingualism

Bilingualism strengthens children's brains, study results

How to raise a bilingual child? There are many parents who decide to actively integrate a curriculum aimed at learning a new language into their children's education. According to research published in Brain Structure and Function called "The effect of bilingualism on brain development from early childhood to young adulthood" and examined the brains of participants (all between 3 and 21 years old), this choice will have important repercussions. on that child's cognitive activity. Not only in childhood, but also in his adult life. In fact, the study analyzed the presence of more gray matter in the brains of children with previous studies of a second language, compared to that of children capable of speaking only one.


Read also: Baby's speech development from 1 month to 3 years

In addition to a greater presence of gray matter, the brains of the bilingual children and adolescents tested were also found to be more intact and resilient. Gray matter controls many of the daily functions such as motor and memory functions and grows in intensity until adolescence, when it reaches its peak and stops. But not only that: bilingual people would seem to have greater white matter, which connects different areas of the brain and, according to the study by Dr. David A. Ziegler Cognition in healthy aging is related to regional white matter integrity is also responsible for the processes of cognitive aging. In light of the study results, the presence of both subjects in significant quantities could mean that the brains of bilingual children age more slowly and appear younger than those who speak only one language.

Read also: The benefits of bilingualism

The myths of bilingualism

Research goes to obscure some myths about bilingualism: science has already shown several times that a bilingual child learns faster than a peer, but popular beliefs about native language delay often beat the results of scientific research. Among the myths that this study tries to overlap are some related to the development and learning of language. In fact, brain analysis on bilingual children has focused not only on the internal structure of the brain, but also on the long-term effects that speaking two languages ​​has on it. In general, the beneficial effects of biliguism confirmed by the research are:

  • Bilingual children react better to problems and develop stronger cognitive skills
  • There is no confusion with languages: even if they use two languages ​​at the same time in the early stages of the experience this does not mean that they confuse them but rather that they have the ability to change register and language as soon as the opportunity arises.

Further studies investigated the relationship between bilingualism and delay in the onset of symptoms of brain aging (dementia or Alzheimer's). Even a research of 2022 ("Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Outcome After Stroke") confirmed that bilingualism contributed to containing severe and severe effects of ischemia: 40,5% of the bilingual people tested had in fact normal cognitive functions, compared to 19,6% of monolinguals. 

Fonti per questo articolo: Pliatsikas C, Meteyard L, Veríssimo J, et al, The effect of bilingualism on brain development from early childhood to young adulthood; Gennatas ED, Avants BB, Wolf DH, et al, Age-Related Effects and Sex Differences in Gray Matter Density, Volume, Mass, and Cortical Thickness from Childhood to Young Adulthood; American Academy of Pediatrics, 7 Myths and Facts About Bilingual Children Learning Language; Alladi S, Bak TH, Mekala S, et al, Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Outcome After Stroke

  • bilingualism
  • language development
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