Education: Bilingual children from economically disadvantaged homes have a better attention span than their monolingual counterparts, new research at the University of Luxembourg has found.
The research results, published in the September edition of Psychological Science, the journal of the US-based Association of Psychological Science, could potentially help educators boost the achievement of children from poor families, the researchers said.
“Teaching a foreign language does not involve costly equipment, it widens children’s linguistic and cultural horizons, and it fosters the healthy development of executive control,” the university’s Dr. Pascale Engel de Abreu, who led the project, said in a press statement.
In the study--conducted with researchers at the University of Minho and York University--80 second-graders from low-income families were given two assignments that examined their ability to pay attention to the task at hand while distractions were created.
Half of the children were first or second generation immigrants to Luxembourg originally from northern Portugal, who spoke both Luxembourgish and Portuguese on a daily basis. The other half lived in northern Portugal and only spoke Portuguese.
While the children in Luxembourg did not perform better on the memory portion of the tests, they did score higher on concentration.
“This is the first study to show that, although they may face linguistic challenges, minority bilingual children from low-income families demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains,” Engel de Abreu explained.
Previous research, which was conducted with older children and adults from middle class backgrounds, has shown that “being bilingual seems to have a positive influence on the ability to direct and focus attention,” the journal’s website reported.