Brain's Best Super-Food? A Second Language

But the more languages kids speak, the smaller their vocabulary
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2011 10:42 AM CDT
Education experts say that learning additional languages is a big help with brain development.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Knowing a second language looks good on a college application—but there's a more compelling reason to aim for bilingual babes: Bilingualism also helps with early brain development, fueling the repetition of a mental exercise that creates an extra "cognitive reserve," reports Newsweek. As one researcher explains, the act of the brain searching for the right word in the right language is a strenuous one that single-language kids don't experience. Researchers are even investigating whether bilingualism can help children with ADHD.

And it's getting even easier to learn Spanish or Mandarin: 440 US elementary schools now offer language immersion classes, up from practically none in 1970. It's not all good news, though. Bilingual kids tend to suffer on vocabulary tests, as the more languages spoken tends to reduce the size of their vocabulary. "That’s where we find that bilinguals have the disadvantage, where you know the word but you just can’t get it out," said one researcher.

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