'Bilingualism boosts mental agility among kids'

Indo Asian News Service

London, Aug 5 (IANS) Bilingual children outperform counterparts who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to a research by a British university.

A study of primary school pupils who spoke English or Italian, half of whom also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian-found that the bilingual children were significantly more successful in the tasks set for them. The Gaelic-speaking children were, in turn, more successful than the Sardinian speakers, the University of Strathclyde study claimed.

The differences were linked to the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could develop skills useful in other types of thinking. The further advantage for Gaelic-speaking children may have been due to the formal teaching of the language and its extensive literature.

Conversely, Sardinian is not widely taught in schools on the Italian island and has a largely oral tradition, which means there is currently no standardised form of the language, according to a Stratthclyde statement.

Fraser Lauchlan, honorary lecturer at Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences & Health, led the research, with colleagues at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia, where he is a visiting professor.

Lauchlan said: "Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them. Our study has found that it can have demonstrable benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively."