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Languages - Two is better than one

A new study has shown how bilingualism benefits children in the classroom.

The Edinburgh University research builds on previous studies showing that speakers of two languages find it easier to block out potential distractions, enabling them to focus better on a range of tasks.

It also reveals that bilinguals may take longer to disengage from the task they are working on, although researchers stress that they are only a split second slower than monolinguals in switching attention to a new task.

The researchers say it is more important than ever that teachers understand the benefits of bilingualism, with more than 160 languages spoken in Scotland's schools and the number of bilingual families growing rapidly because of immigration. The findings, from a multidisciplinary team including neuroscientists and linguists, are to be published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin amp; Review.

Antonella Sorace, professor of developmental linguistics at the university's school of philosophy, psychology and language sciences, said: "Many parents and teachers still think that bilingualism can cause confusion and intellectual delay in children. In reality, there are no such drawbacks and this research shows that bringing children up bilingually could have further benefits besides being able to speak two languages."

Professor Sorace is the leader of Bilingualism Matters, a University of Edinburgh-based information service run by a group of researchers who work on language development and bilingualism in children and adults.

www.bilingualism-matters.org.uk.

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