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Education Science

Bilingual Kids Show More Creativity 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the blame-your-parents-for-making-you-dumb dept.
An anonymous reader tips news of a study from researchers at the University of Strathclyde which found bilingual children to be significantly more successful at a set of tasks than children who spoke only one language. "The differences were linked to the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could develop skills useful in other types of thinking." Lead researcher Fraser Lauchlan said, "Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them. Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively. We also assessed the children's vocabulary, not so much for their knowledge of words as their understanding of them. Again, there was a marked difference in the level of detail and richness in description from the bilingual pupils."
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Bilingual Kids Show More Creativity

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  • by gagol (583737)
    rocks!
    • by gagol (583737)
      That must be why Cirque du Soleil is from Quebec...
    • That's not multiculturalism, that's multilingualism. Something entirely different.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Alternatively, bilingual children tend to be raised by people with greater drive and skill in problem solving, notably immigrants.

    • by gagol (583737) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:40PM (#40881399)
      What about people living in Quebec, a lot people there speaks varying levels of english. Also in Europe, many people learn many languages there too. Cultural isolationism fail.
      • by gagol (583737)
        Thinking if it, the must be other parts of the globe people routinely speaks many languages. Slashdoters of the world, would you enlighten us about your particular region?
        • by xaxa (988988) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:39PM (#40881803)

          Luxembourg is a good example -- people born there (to Luxembourgish parents) tend to speak Luxembourgish, German, French and English.

          Many people in Wales speak both English and Welsh.

          A huge number of Europeans speak their native language plus English, but how often they use English will depend on their occupation. Some universities give lectures in English (rather than the local language), and some workplaces work in English.

          • by nospam007 (722110) *

            "Luxembourg is a good example -- people born there (to Luxembourgish parents) tend to speak Luxembourgish, German, French and English."

            I'm from there and I can confirm that. German is the first one we learn officially at 5 years, French comes at 6.
            Kids watch French and German TV from an early age since there are only a couple of Luxembourgish programs.
            Lots of people (about 25%) also learn a fifth one in High School, either Spanish/Italian or Latin.

            Also a third of the population are immigrants who have troub

            • by xaxa (988988)

              I visited a couple of weeks ago, and stayed with a Luxembourgish friend.

              I thought it was strange that, even though Luxembourgish is far more closely related to German, French seems more prominent in daily life outside the home. Shop staff speak French, menus are in French, the captions in the museums and galleries are in French first (and sometimes not in anything else). At the cinema the film was subtitled in French.

              Why not German?

    • by oiron (697563)

      Nice and Amerocentric!

      If you read TFA, you'd find that the study was of kids who spoke English and Gaelic, or Italian and Sardinian. That kind of assumes British or Italian/Sardinian kids, not immigrants to the US...

    • In Canada, our French Immersion classes actually tended to consist of a lot LESS immigrant families than the English one. The non-immersion Spanish classes an exception however, but many of them already had some Spanish from home.
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:38PM (#40881383)

    Who the hell thinks this? I grew up in a bilingual household and then took Spanish in high school, so I'm semi-trilingual. Childhood is the best time to learn a new language since children can still hear the differences between phonemes that aren't present in the main society's language.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Je ne sais pas que tipo de confusión ce puede causar.......

      (It's a joke -- don't mod me down for using alternate languages...)

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        The curious thing is I read that perfectly, Spanish, French and English being three of the six languages I am fluent in. But I could venture that the latin-based languages like Italian and Portugese hardly count for much because if you know any two of them, you are pretty well equipped to handle yourself in any of the others. I was quite surprised however at how much spoken Romanian I can understand, although I am nowhere near fluent in that language.
      • by rHBa (976986)
        Quelle est cette confusion dont vous parlez? Je viens d'utiliser Google Translate...
    • by puto (533470)
      My bio dad is Colombian, he hit the road when I was 2, but I lived in Colombia for 8 years on and off, and my spanish is better than most american latinos, punctuation, grammar, abstract concepts, and technical. I took spanish in high school as well, but it no way prepared me to dumped into the ass end of Latino America. I started speaking spanish when I was 20, and at 42 I will bet dollars to donuts I will outclass people who grew up in latino households in the states.
    • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:37PM (#40882203) Homepage

      Who the hell thinks this?

      Monolingual zealots (typically of the borderline racist kind). Seriously, YMMV, but the only type of people I've ever seen making this claim are the type not typically happy with people speaking a foreign language around them. I don't understand what they are talking about, so they must be talking about me!!!". It feels like a long time ago, the early 90's when you could still see the bigotry the hatred. It was regular topic in the news, of employers firing their employees because they were talking Spanish or Vietnamese or Creole, or f* Klingon in the parking lot on the way home or during lunch (not on the clock, mind you, not on the clock.)

      Now, the rhetoric has shifted from language to immigration status, and to a somewhat lesser degree to Islamic fundamentalism. The later two are based real issues - illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism. However, a significant number of people who bring these issues up do so to rationalize Anti-Hispanic or Islamophobic sentiments, regardless of their connections (or lack thereof) with illegal immigration or Islamic terrorism.

      It is a generalization, I know, to say these claims are only made by people uncomfortable with foreign-language speakers. But it has been a generalization that holds true in my experience. YMMV obviously.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dj245 (732906)

        Who the hell thinks this?

        Monolingual zealots (typically of the borderline racist kind). Seriously, YMMV, but the only type of people I've ever seen making this claim are the type not typically happy with people speaking a foreign language around them. I don't understand what they are talking about, so they must be talking about me!!!". It feels like a long time ago, the early 90's when you could still see the bigotry the hatred. It was regular topic in the news, of employers firing their employees because they were talking Spanish or Vietnamese or Creole, or f* Klingon in the parking lot on the way home or during lunch (not on the clock, mind you, not on the clock.)

        Now, the rhetoric has shifted from language to immigration status, and to a somewhat lesser degree to Islamic fundamentalism. The later two are based real issues - illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism. However, a significant number of people who bring these issues up do so to rationalize Anti-Hispanic or Islamophobic sentiments, regardless of their connections (or lack thereof) with illegal immigration or Islamic terrorism.

        It is a generalization, I know, to say these claims are only made by people uncomfortable with foreign-language speakers. But it has been a generalization that holds true in my experience. YMMV obviously.

        I don't think you need to be any kind of zealot to think that multiple languages confuses a child. My wife's first language is not English. Many of her immigrant friends have children who are learning to speak English and another language. They are slower at first. Sometimes they are confused about who speaks what language. Many times one of their children has come up to me and started babbling in a language I don't understand. Since small children are basically psychopaths (don't know right from wron

        • by mce (509) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:27AM (#40884559) Homepage Journal
          Writing as a Belgian and thus intimately familiar with language wars: Over here the people who argue against multilingual education are indeed most often the "monolingual zealot (typically of the borderline racist kind)" type. Since they don't want to be labeled as such, they will typically use the "it confuses the child" argument, ideally using a young child that uses two languages in a single sentence as evidence (as if uni-lingual young children never make grammar mistakes). The "it's confusing" claim has the additional benefit that it can be used to convince non-racists who don't know any better. Never mind that the whole argument has been scientifically disproved a ton of times. Never mind even that every single multilingual child/adult walking the place is a perfect example that no harm was done. (Well, of course from the point of view of the zealots, harm was done. But I refuse make them my to reference point.)
          • ideally using a young child that uses two languages in a single sentence as evidence

            Just refer them to the phenomenon of code switching [wikipedia.org]. That is not an error or grammar mistake by any means. This phenomenon has been observed to have strict grammatical rules, as solid as, say, embedding ESQL in the host language in programming.

        • Have you ever heard of Russia or Canada?

        • I don't think you need to be any kind of zealot to think that multiple languages confuses a child. My wife's first language is not English. Many of her immigrant friends have children who are learning to speak English and another language. They are slower at first.

          Slower with respect to what? With what objective measure????? My daughter speaks English and Japanese (from her Mother) and understand Spanish (my language) when I talk to her, and can count in all three languages. She is only 3 and a half years old. I don't see any confusion or delay in her progress (and neither 3rd party observers, including my sister who is a speech therapist and whom I asked her to evaluate her just in case.)

          My nephew speaks English and Spanish from a very early age. He simply picked

    • Same with typing. If you take qwerty typists and teach them Dvorak, their qwerty typing speed decreases a bit.

      But yeah, I'm bilingual, semi-trilingual as well, and the confusion is very minor. Most of the time you can "switch gears" between the languages without problem (cross-language homophones and the occasional grammatical equivalent can cause a little confusion). But the benefits (allows you to see things missing in the language which mono-linguists take for granted, forces you to recognize there
    • ...so I'm semi-trilingual...

      You speak one and a half languages? :-)

    • by AncientPC (951874)

      My wife's research is in this field (linguistic development in children), mostly doing case studies on non-Japanese children learning in Japan.

      These kids are typically from lower income households with busy parents. Rather than gaining full mastery of one language, many only develop partial mastery in two languages. This partial mastery negatively impacts their scores in testing as they have more difficulty expressing certain high level concepts in either language.

      Now, obviously does not apply to everyone.

  • by metalmaster (1005171) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:41PM (#40881403)
    You dont even have to live in a multicultural community. Start early enough and the kid will learn the second language just as easy as they'll pick up on English
  • by SageMusings (463344) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:54PM (#40881469) Journal

    How does the disparity in performance among Hispanic kids factor into this study?

    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:07PM (#40881567)
      In a word, No. they did not study Hispanic kids in California. The first sentence of the link is:

      A study of primary school pupils who spoke English or Italian- half of whom also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian- found that the bilingual children were significantly more successful in the tasks set for them. The Gaelic-speaking children were, in turn, more successful than the Sardinian speakers.

      Without knowing anything about the demographics of Scotland and Sardinia I couldn't even guess about what other factors might correlate with bilingually there... it might be very different than how many bilingual Americans are recent immigrants, and thus at a disadvantage due to poverty in addition to whatever language barrier exists.

      • Gaelic-speaking people generally live in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I'd expect the live out there to be a bit harsher than the national average, what with smaller communities in basically rural settings, higher life expenses (due to costs of goods transport to remote areas) and lower incomes.
    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @11:53PM (#40883529)

      My wife is Hispanic. She grew up in a bilingual home in Chile.

      At one time she held the highest score ever recorded in South America in the Oxford English Competency Exam. After graduating from college at age 17 in Chile she was awarded a 4 year scholarship to study in Europe where she picked up 5 other languages.

      She was then awarded a Fullbright scholarship to come to the US where she obtained a PhD in Medieval English Lit.

      If there is a performance problem with Hispanic kids it's due to poverty, racism and the the horrific US education system which has no concept of how to teach even monolingual students.

  • by ebunga (95613) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:04PM (#40881537) Homepage

    Since it's for their own good, time to shove fourteen languages down the their throats in forced mandatory education. Stop concentrating on math and science, start concentrating on languages. Veuillez considérer le bien-être des enfants.

    • Since it's for their own good, time to shove fourteen languages down the their throats in forced mandatory education. Stop concentrating on math and science, start concentrating on languages. Veuillez considérer le bien-être des enfants.

      Fourteen no, three yes. I'm American living in France so my son speaks both languages very well. Anticipating the continuing growth of China in the world I've encouraged (read bribed) him to take Mandarin lessons as well.

  • Since much of our thinking is actually affected by language, and language structures vary sometimes greatly (e.g. Chinese vs English), integrating an additional language into a mind seems highly likely to expand general mental capacity. Perspective is perhaps an underrated element. I am no linguist, but as I understand, a language such as English suffers a lot of nouns. Since most 'things' are actually not nouns, but motions in space/time, a language centered more around the verb may offer advantages. I fin
  • Exercising the brain makes it work better.
  • Could we speculate about whether the same effect could be observed with computer languages ? I think a lot of people would agree that studying another computer language, especially if it has differing base paradigms (functional, OO, procedural, dynamic, static, etc.) would give them new hindsights when they came back to their "main" language.

    • by Spacejock (727523)
      I've always said computer programming should be moved to the Arts faculty in universities. Getting kids to study the highest-level math when most computer programming involves syntax and logic is insane. English is my first language but I'm fluent in Spanish after growing up there, and I also have enough French get by. I did an arts degree at uni in the 80's, but in the late 90's I went back and got a computing degree as well. I don't remember a whole lot of math usage during my studies, and I acheived an 8
  • I found something similar when I was doing my psychology thesis in 1990. I found that my bilingual participants, when compared to uni-lingual participants, had a statistically significant difference in their high school leaving grades, first year university grades and on a test of general mental ability (g). At the time I thought it made sense as the same abilities you use to learn a second language (memory, language skills, cognition) are also measures that an individual needs to learn academic subjects.

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:33PM (#40882169) Homepage
    ...trying to brainwash us into teaching our kids languages other than American!
  • I have two tri-lingual kids, with Chinese and Finnish spoken at home, and 'Mmerican English at school. I think the American school system is negating any advantage they may have had. I kid people! It's the Californinglish that's destroying their chances :)
    • by legojenn (462946)

      As long as they don't talk like the characters in SNL's 'the Californians' recurring skit, then they'll be fine.

  • Does that count as bilingual?
  • by bidule (173941) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @09:22PM (#40882515) Homepage

    Seeing how the "same" word translate differently in another language helps to fix in your mind the differences between:
    - capitol / capital
    - principle / principal
    - affect / effect
    - its et al
    - theirs et al

    I could go on, but these silly mistakes mostly happen to speakers ignorant of their own native language. Bilingualism kills that ignorance.

  • How exactly do you go about scientifically and objectively measuring creativity? If you think you're doing it right, you're doing it wrong.

  • Think about it.
    There, did you notice how words defined and directed your thoughts?
    That is all.

  • Creative kids find it easier to be bilingual, therefore more bilingual kids would be found to be more creative than non-bilingual kids. The trap you fall into is believing that making kids bilingual will suddenly make them more creative.

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