The Bilingual Brain: Dispelling the Myths

In a recent NPR Morning Edition article and podcast titled “Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brainpower,” Gretchen Cuda-Kroen reported that “approximately one-fifth of Americans speak a non-English language at home, and globally, as many as two-thirds of children are brought up bilingual.”

The story profiles a Hungarian couple raising their children as bilingual. Speaking only the home language before their children learned English at school, the couple received mixed responses  from others.

But the emphasis of the report is how “some psychologists say being bilingual may actually be good for children’s cognitive development”–pointing to the wave of myths and misunderstandings about the effects of learning more than one language, such as that it will hold you back.

According to the article:

The idea that children exposed to two languages from birth become confused or that they fall behind monolingual children is a common misconception, says Janet Werker, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who studies language acquisition in bilingual babies.

“Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual,” said Werker, whose own research indicates babies of bilingual mothers can distinguish between languages even hours after birth.

“There is absolutely no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to confusion, and there is no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to delay,” she said.

To read the full article or listen to the podcast, click here.

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2 Responses to The Bilingual Brain: Dispelling the Myths

  1. Robin Moore says:

    Ni hao! Ni hao ma?
    Wo hen hao.
    Is there a way I can “subscribe” to this blog? This sounds very interesting.
    I am a writer. Our own children are now adults, but I am currently studying Mandarin on my own. I took one semester of Chinese at Santa Rosa Junior College, but the courses were axed there due to budget cuts. I continue to listen to Mandarin language learning cd’s in the car while I drive 40 mi. (one way) each week to work with my writers’ critique groups. I write novels for middle grades students and young adults.
    Xie xie!

  2. Robin Moore says:

    Your blog on The Bilingual Brain: Dispelling Myths brings up excellent points in regards to how children learn. It reminds me of a research paper I did in college which shows that learning a 2nd or even a 3rd language–even as an adult–can benefit the neural pathways through the brain. This is comparable to the benefits of learning musical instruments–which are great for the brain– as well as helping the development of math skills. The conclusion was that, yes, adults should keep learning languages too, and not just assume that only children can learn other languages.

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