While some parents-to-be debate whether or not to raise their baby as bilingual, a new study from researchers at York University in Toronto may put their minds at ease.
The scientists noted that babies who are exposed to more than one language — even before they can speak any — showed improvements in their attention spans compared to infants who only hear one language.
The benefits, the researchers say, could last a lifetime, the researchers say.
The experiment dealt with a series of images on screens to infants; the pictures were color coded in a way that would “teach” the tykes to predict which screen would feature the next pic.
The bilingual babies picked out the rules more quickly than their monolingual counterparts, the researchers say.
“By studying infants — a population that does not yet speak any language — we discovered that the real difference between monolingual and bilingual individuals later in life is not in the language itself, but rather, in the attention system used to focus on language,” explains co-senior author Ellen Bialystok, a research professor of psychology at York University, in a media release.
“This study tells us that from the very earliest stage of development, the networks that are the basis for developing attention are forming differently in infants who are being raised in a bilingual environment. Why is that important? It’s because attention is the basis for all cognition,” concludes Bialystok.