Speaking two languages appears to boost brain power, according to a new U.K. study that has found bilingual children outperform kids who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, involved 121 primary school pupils in Scotland and Sardinia who spoke English or Italian – half of whom also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian. They found the bilingual children were significantly more successful in performing a series of mental tasks.
Researchers suggested the differences are tied to the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could enhance types of creative thinking and problem solving.
"Our study has found that [bilingualism] can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively,” said lead researcher Dr. Fraser Lauchlan, with the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health.
“We also assessed the children's vocabulary…[and] there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils. We also found they had an aptitude for selective attention – the ability to identify and focus on information which is important, while filtering out what is not – which could come from the 'code-switching' of thinking in two different languages."
The study was published in the International Journal of Bilingualism.