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Babies who hear two languages at home develop advantages in attention

March 19, 2019

I recently spoke to parents at Hudson Way Immersion School in New York City and at their campus in Stirling, New Jersey. One question that came up from several families where at least one parent speaks another language was the value of raising bilingual children. There is a great deal of research showing it’s excellent for children. This is only the most recent study I’ve seen.

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Six-month-old babies who are brought up hearing more than one language show advantages in early development of attention

TORONTO, Jan. 30, 2019 – The advantages of growing up in a bilingual home can start as early as six months of age, according to new research led by York University’s Faculty of Health. In the study, infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control than infants who are exposed to only one language. This means that exposure to bilingual environments should be considered a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy, the researchers say, and could set the stage for lifelong cognitive benefits.

The research was conducted by Ellen Bialystok, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology and Walter Gordon Research Chair of Lifespan Cognitive Development at York University and Scott Adler, associate professor in York’s Department of Psychology and the Centre for Vision Research, along with lead author Kyle J. Comishen, a former Master’s student in their lab. It will be published January 30, 2019 in Developmental Science.

The researchers conducted two separate studies in which infants’ eye movements were measured to assess attention and learning. Half of the infants who were studied were being raised in monolingual environments while others were being raised in environments in which they heard two languages spoken approximately half of the time each. The infants were shown images as they lay in a crib equipped with a camera and screen, and their eye movements were tracked and recorded as they watched pictures appear above them, in different areas of the screen. The tracking was conducted 60 times for each infant.

Please read more here.

And check out the video here.

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