More Evidence Bilingualism Aids Thinking
MONDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- People who speak two
languages have enhanced hearing processing, which improves their
attention and memory skills, a new, small study says.
Northwestern University researchers recorded the brainstem
responses in 23 English- and-Spanish speaking teens and 25
English-only speaking teens as they heard speech sounds in two
Under quiet conditions, both groups had similar results. But
when there was background noise, the bilingual teens' brains did
better at detecting speech sounds.
The findings show that being bilingual changes how the nervous
system responds to sound, according to the researchers.
"People do crossword puzzles and other activities to keep their minds sharp," study co-author Viorica Marian, a bilingualism expert and associate professor of communication sciences, said in a university news release.
"But the advantages we've discovered in dual language speakers come automatically simply from knowing and using two languages. It seems that the benefits of bilingualism are particularly powerful and broad, and include attention, inhibition and encoding of sound," she explained.
The study appears April 30 in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Bilinguals are natural jugglers," Marian said. "The bilingual juggles linguistic input and, it appears, automatically pays greater attention to relevant versus irrelevant sounds. Rather than promoting linguistic confusion, bilingualism promotes improved 'inhibitory control,' or the ability to pick out relevant speech sounds and ignore others."
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more about
benefits of being bilingual.
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