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Why learning several languages as a child leads to sharper cognitive abilities

Why learning several languages as a child leads to sharper cognitive abilities
/ Orchidpoet / E+ / Getty Images

Many children around the world grow up exposed to two languages from an early age. Parents sometimes go out of their way to teach their children multiple languages because they know attaining fluency in two or more languages looks great on a job application and presents opportunities in other corners of life completely denied to the monolingual. There are plenty of benefits to learning different languages as a child but what many people don’t realize is that being bilingual as a child leads to sharper cognitive abilities as well as better vision.

Studies revealed that kids who can speak multiple languages perform far better on sorting puzzles, both in speed and success and according to researchers at Anglia Ruskin University, those who grow up bilingual tend to have far sharper cognitive skills as adults than those who studied a second language later in life.

And that’s not all; being bilingual can improve vision too!

To reach these conclusions, a group of 127 participants took part in two distinct experiments. The first entailed staring at two images on a screen, with one image gradually fading away and the other remaining static. Early bilinguals noticed these visual changes much faster than those who learned a second language later in life, thus leading scientists to believe learning multiple languages as a child also improves your vision.

“This study is an exciting extension of our previous research, which suggested that infants raised in bilingual homes adapt to their more complex language environments by switching attention faster and more frequently,” says study leader Dr. Dean D’Souza in a university release. “This adaptation may help them to take advantage of multiple sources of visual information, such as mouth movements, facial expressions, and subtle gestures, ultimately helping them to learn multiple languages.”

“The findings from our new research with bilingual adults suggest that some of these adaptations, including being quicker at shifting attention, are maintained into adulthood,” he concludes.

The study is published in Scientific Reports.

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