Could Bilingual Education Mold Kids’ Brains to Better Resist Distraction?
By Samara Freemark and Stephen Smith, American RadioWorks
For decades, psychologists cautioned against raising children bilingual. They warned parents and teachers that learning a second language as a child was bad for brain development. But recent studies have found exactly the opposite. Researchers now believe that when people learn another language, they develop cognitive advantages that improve their attention, self-control and ability to deal with conflicting information.
Today the benefits of bilingualism are being put to the test in schools all across Utah.
Arrowhead Elementary is just one of the more than 100 public schools in the state that have launched language immersion programs in the past five years. At Arrowhead, that language is Mandarin. Other schools across Utah have created programs in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.
Supporters of immersion education argue that learning a second language is valuable preparation to participate in the global economy. But parents are most excited about what language learning could do for their children’s brains.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
The first-graders of Arrowhead Elementary in Santa Clara, Utah, are giggling. Their math teacher, Jing Sun, has just made a little subtraction joke. She drew red circles on a whiteboard, erased one, and asked, “Where did he run away to?” The kids think it’s hilarious.
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