The advantages of being fluent in multiple languages are pretty obvious, but knew research has uncovered some surprising advantages for kids who grow up in a bilingual home.

A new study conducted by York University’s Faculty of Health has found that the advantages of learning more than one language can start as early as six months old. It’s not just academics and future careers that can benefit from being raised in a bilingual home. As it turns out, infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control.

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The study involved the use of eye trackers to assess attention and learning. The researchers found that babies who were raised in bilingual homes were more adaptable to change, showing that language can influence the development of the attentional system.

“By studying infants—a population that does not yet speak any language—we discovered that the real difference between monolingual and bilingual individuals later in life is not in the language itself, but rather, in the attention system used to focus on language,” says Bialystok, co-senior author of the study.

“This study tells us that from the very earliest stage of development, the networks that are the basis for developing attention are forming differently in infants who are being raised in a bilingual environment. Why is that important? It’s because attention is the basis for all cognition,” Bialystok added.

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—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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