2 Languages Better Than 1 for Baby's Brain

Bilingual kids may talk later but excel at 'executive functions'
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2009 5:24 AM CDT
Trieste, where the study was carried out, lies in Italy but is nearly surrounded by Slovenia, so bilingual families were easy to find.   (©tosolini)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Some teachers complain that children raised in bilingual households tend to lag behind their peers in school, but a new study suggests multilingual kids' brains may be better organized, the Economist reports. Polyglot babies have stronger "executive function": processes in the brain that help humans plan, prioritize, and switch attention among various tasks and stimuli.

The scientists gave 7-month-olds from a bilingual area of Italy tasks that involved changing nonsense words and objects in different locations. Kids being raised in bilingual households were quicker to adapt to the change than babies in single-language homes. But it's not clear whether the benefits extend to children who speak one language at home and another in school.