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Bilingual children have more efficient thinking skills, research by Bangor lecturers reveals

13 Sep 2021 2 minutes Read
Athanasia Papastergiou, Lecturer in the Linguistics department of Bangor University and lead author on the publication

Bilingual children have more efficient thinking skills compared to children who only use one language, research by Bangor University lecturers has revealed.

By introducing a radical new method, researchers were able to measure children’s thinking skills more accurately and comprehensively than ever before, the study published in Behavior Research Methods shows.

The findings show that bilingual children are on average 6.5% more efficient in their thinking skills than monolingual children.

Athanasia Papastergiou, Lecturer in the Linguistics department of Bangor University and lead author on the publication, said it was “very exciting” to develop this new approach to the study of bilingual children.

“I hope that these positive results will help to allay any possible fears about bringing up children bilingually and highlight the benefits of doing so,” she said.

‘Important’

The research team, in collaboration with Dr Vasileios Pappas from the Kent Business School, University of Kent, achieved its breakthrough by adapting methodology from the field of economics to the study of bilingualism.

The project analysed data from children educated through the medium of both Greek and English in UK schools, in comparison with monolingual children.

Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and senior academic in the project, said: “There is an obvious advantage in being able to communicate in more than one language. Our findings show that learning two languages can have even more benefits for children’s development.

“We asked children, for example, to remember and repeat as many numbers as they can, to ignore irrelevant information, and to shift quickly between different tasks: bilingual children were better overall than monolingual children.

“These results are important for us here in Wales and indeed for bilingual communities across the world.”

The team will now expand its research to other languages, with a new project examining language and thinking skills in English-speaking children attending Welsh-medium education.

The study was co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and the Department of Linguistics in the School of Arts, Culture and Language at Bangor University.

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Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
1 month ago

Great news now let’s get more Welsh schools

Grayham Jones
1 month ago

Very true my children speck welsh and all got good jobs in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
1 month ago

Dr Colin Baker’s research in Bangor University in the 1970sand 80s showed this conclusively. Old news.

Ifan
1 month ago
Reply to  Alwyn Evans

The mother of the guy who set up Nation.Cymru wrote the Encyclopedia of Bilingualism with Dr Colin Baker. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Vaughan
Vaughan
1 month ago

How many children in UK are “educated through the medium of Greek and English “?
Where and under what circumstances? Is this in the state system?

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
1 month ago
Reply to  Vaughan

I don’t know the answer to your question, but the British Empire’s involvement in Cyprus dates back to 1878, and the RAF bases there are still classified as UK ‘sovereign territories’. Of the 30000 Cypriots who fought in the British army in the 2nd world war, Churchill said “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like the Greeks.” Greek Cypriot refugees came to Britain after the Turkish invasion of 1974, with 11000 of them settling in the London Borough of Haringey alone. The ties between The UK and Cyprus grew stronger when we… Read more »

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
1 month ago

Two questions:

Is it fair and justifiable to deny children a bilingual education in Wales?

Why do we not capitalize on the enhanced linguistic skills and aptitudes of Welsh-English bilinguals to add a third language at primary school age?

Welsh_Sion
Welsh_Sion
1 month ago

Third question:

Why do we not insist on Cymraeg being taught outwith Cymru in rUK schools?

We’re all supposed to be proud of being British aren’t we – well, Cymraeg is a (and until about the 18th century was ‘the’) British language. Seems only right, don’t it?

Lingua Irredenta
Lingua Irredenta
1 month ago
Reply to  Welsh_Sion

Not really. There is a far bigger take up of modern and classical languages in England and far more second and first language speakers of other languages.

Plus I can hardly see Ulster and Scotland being up for it.

Best deal with the 80% at home.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

I’d point to the Nordic countries. All multilingual with world beating education systems that puts the monolingual protagonists in little Britain who attack speakers & learners of Cymraeg citing a useless dead language to shame.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro
Lingua Irredenta
Lingua Irredenta
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I’d point to the Nordic countries : on what basis? They speak to some degree English, but there will be many people who don’t – you just haven’t met them. By definition as the only language I have seen you post in is English. There are 420 modern and classical language degree courses running at undergraduate level alone in England. Coupled with a far more prevalent modern and classical language take up in schools. ” The project analysed data from children educated through the medium of both Greek and English in UK schools” Sorry, where is the Greco-Cymraeg community in… Read more »

Ruth
Ruth
1 month ago

Our children grew up trilingual in Wales. Welsh, English and my own language Swiss German. It is normal for many children in Switzerland to grow up bilingual or even multilingual.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Having lived in Finland for a number of years, I can testify to their spoken English. Prior to WW2, their second language was either/and German or Swedish. I don’t know what will happen after Brexit, but there is growing talk of German coming back due to trade patterns. Sweden, of course, has an easier job of English as a second language.
I would think Welsh schools should start at play school level and go from there?

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