A few weeks ago, while I was stuck in LGA during a 6 (yes, six) hour delay, I headed to the news stand and found a bunch of magazines to help me pass time. Think less Vogue, and more Newsweek (don’t take me wrong, I do love fashion but flipping through pages of pretty dresses can only last for so long!)
Well, one of my chosen magazines was “Scientific American”. They had a fascinating article about bilingualism. I’m a sucker for statistics and they had one stating that “only 9% of adults in the U.S. are fluent in more than one language.” Posting this on my twitter feed got me more responses than anything so far.
The article went on to state that “until the mid-1800’s, bilingualism was common in the U.S. but in the 1800’s popular sentiment began to turn against immigrants, and psychologists proclaimed that exposure to more than one language rendered children intellectually inferior.” How interesting.
My favorite part of the article though was the part about the experiment on infants. Scientists taught monolingual and bilingual infants a pattern consisting of speech like sounds. At the end of the sequence the infants received a visual reward of a puppet appearing on the computer screen. Both monolingual and bilingual children learned the sequence equally well, what differentiates them though is when the scientist modifies the sequence and moved the puppet. The bilingual infants adjusted more rapidly and switched their gaze accordingly, while the monolingual infants still looked for the puppet at the old location. Being bilingual clearly affects the brain, and how we think.
Here is a PDF of the full article for those of you who are interested.