Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twice blessed

This from The Economist:

Bilingual babies are precocious decision-makers
WHETHER to teach young children a second language is disputed among teachers, researchers and pushy parents. On the one hand, acquiring a new tongue is said to be far easier when young. On the other, teachers complain that children whose parents speak a language at home that is different from the one used in the classroom sometimes struggle in their lessons and are slower to reach linguistic milestones. Would 15-month-old Tarquin, they wonder, not be better off going to music classes?

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may help resolve this question by getting to the nub of what is going on in a bilingual child’s brain, how a second language affects the way he thinks, and thus in what circumstances being bilingual may be helpful. Agnes Kovacs and Jacques Mehler at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste say that some aspects of the cognitive development of infants raised in a bilingual household must be undergoing acceleration in order to manage which of the two languages they are dealing with...

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