The Benefits of Bilingualism

I have recently read an article in the New York Times and have found it quite interesting, and mostly very relevant to what we, as parents and educators, experience with our children on a daily basis. Three years ago, as a Board member of the Association of French Schools in America, I had invited Ellen Bialystok to speak to us, and was impressed by her approach and the depth of her thoughts. Her research indicates that bilingual speakers can outperform monolinguals in certain mental abilities, such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on important information. These skills make bilinguals better at prioritizing tasks and working on multiple projects at one time. Researchers trace the source of these multi-tasking skills to the way bilinguals mentally negotiate between the languages, a skill that could be called mental flexibility or juggling. Bialystok confirmed that the benefits of bilingualism appear across age groups. Studies of children who grow up as bilingual speakers indicate they are often better at prioritizing, than monolingual children.

At INTL*, it is our mission to educate students through a rigorous bilingualcurriculum, and we have drawn on such research to enhance our students’ academic experience, and to further develop the educational component of our strategic plan.

In the same vein, I would also like to recommend a good summer read onbilingualism.

Bilingual: Life and Reality (Harvard University Press, 2010) by François Grosjean-

In this very personal book full of vitality, anecdotes and wisdom about being bilingual and raising bilingual children, François Grosjean draws on research and autobiographies to describe in an enjoyable way how bilingualism affects the experience, thoughts, and life of those of us who arebilingual.

Let me know your thoughts about the benefits of bilingualism, and how it has affected your child and family.

 *In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.