Within parent circles, myths and debates about bilingualism are hot topics. However, many concrete social-emotional and cognitive benefits associated with bilingual children are overlooked. This article will take a closer look at what ways can bilingualism improve your child’s ability to empathize, understand other perspectives, and communicate.
The Banana Experiment
The University of Chicago conducted an experiment to test the effect of bilingualism in children on their interpersonal skills. They put two bananas in front of a baby (14 – 16 months) and an adult but the adult could only see one banana. The adult then asked for “the banana” and the researchers observed which banana the baby pointed out. They found that bilingual babies pointed to the banana in the adult’s view. They repeated a similar experiment with 4-6 year old children and observed similar results.
These experiments suggest that bilingual children have more developed senses of empathy, compassion and communication skills.
Researchers concluded this because when switching between languages, children need to adjust depending on context and perspective. In a bilingual environment this process becomes more complex because it requires more practice, often on a daily basis.
However some monolingual children who had exposure to multilingual environments reacted similarly to the bilingual children in the banana experiment.
Other social-emotional benefits
- In another meta-analysis, researchers concluded that bilingual preschoolers had relatively better skills than monolinguals in understanding their peers’ desires, thoughts, and intentions.
- Bilingual children also have enhanced sensitivity to certain features of communication like tone of voice.
- Being bilingual allows you to bridge communication gaps to communicate and befriend more peers while creating a stronger relationship with your community.
Don’t leave just yet!
Although bilingual education can bring about many benefits, research shows that passionate teachers, engaged parents, and a supporting environment are also needed in conjunction.