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Bilingual Children Better at Math, Reading

Update Date: Feb 21, 2013 08:30 AM EST

Children who grow up learning two languages are better at tasks that require working memory like math and reading comprehension, says a new study.

Researchers from University of Granada and the University of York in Toronto, Canada, have found that bilingual kids develop better working memory that holds and processes large chunks of information faster than monolinguals.

Previous research has shown that children who grow up learning two languages are better at switching between tasks than children who learn just one language. However, bilingual children develop vocabulary at a slower rate than monolinguals as they have to divide time between two different languages.

"Other studies have demonstrated that bilingual children are better at planning and cognitive control (i.e. tasks involving ignoring irrelevant information or requiring a dominant response). But, to date, there was no evidence on the influence of bilingualism on the working memory," said Julia Morales Castillo, of the Department of Experimental Psychology of the University of Granada, principal investigator of the study.

The study included children aged between 5 and 7 years. Researchers found that bilingual children consistently performed better at tasks that need working memory. Also, the more complex the task was, the better bilinguals performed. People with good working memory have higher self-control and ability to keep distractions away.

"The results of this study suggest that bilingualism does not only improve the working memory in an isolated way, but they affect the global development of executive functions, especially when they have to interact with each other," Castillo said in a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.  

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