Or maybe two languages are too much for a kid and can cause a language delay? Teachers, parents and caregivers should know that babies have enough learning capacities to learn several languages at the same time by listening.
In a new study conducted by Princeton University, scientists found that infants younger than 20 months can accurately process two languages. By 20 months, babies understand the differences between two languages and can learn new words from both of them. Researchers studied 20 bilingual babies and examined how they talk, see and understand the world.
Scientists say babies understand that two different words of the same thing belong to two different languages.
The Core of the Study
In order to examine an infant’s ability to analyze two languages, the researchers showed them photographs of familiar objects and asked to name them in English and in French. They also spoke to babies in two languages to see whether children can clearly understand both of them.
The researchers also used eye-tracking measures to see whether infant’s eyes are fixed to a photograph. It helped to analyze the amount of cognitive effort babies put in proceeding different languages.
The researchers tested bilingual adults as well and used the same photographs and measures to see whether they have the same language-control mechanisms as babies. The scientists found that both infants and adults could easily switch from the non-dominant to the dominant language. However, when the switch was from the dominant language, it was harder for them to proceed.
It is not a secret that the language that is currently being spoken is the base language and it requires less effort to speak. Therefore, there is a preference for the dominant language when listening and hence processing another language requires more time. Moreover, when listeners expect a language switch, there is no extra effort necessary.
Researchers said this study helps further understand bilingual infants and adults. It should help find optimal teaching ways in bilingual settings. One of the main implications is that parents and caregivers shouldn’t be worried about children growing up in bilingual families. Toddlers naturally use the language that is being used in a particular situation.
The Benefits Of Being Bilingual
Researchers said that the study not only confirms that bilingual babies can freely control two languages while listening to them but also proves why bilingual people often have cognitive advantages. Both adults and children who came from bilingual backgrounds have been confirmed to perform better at everything that requires switching from one thing to another.
Researchers state that back-and-forth processing that bilinguals have to perform every day gives them huge advantages that have been found both in children and adults.