Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/11531
The Importance of Being Bilingual: The effects of bilingualism on cognitive development and the role of language valorisation
Supported by numerous studies, bilingualism has been linked to both cognitive advantages as well as disadvantages in children’s cognitive development. Previous data mostly revealed negative outcomes but following an increased emphasis on methodological precision during experiments, tables have turned and results have appeared both negative and positive (Diaz, 1983).
Research conducted by Bialystok (1999) has indicated increased concentration abilities among bilinguals, Hakuta and Diaz (1985) found a strong connection between the level of bilingual proficiency and cognitive flexibility, and Kovacs and Mehler (2009)discovered enhanced executive functioning amid bilinguals. However, studies have also implied the opposite where bilinguals have shown a delay in grammatical structure and vocabulary acquisition (Ben – Zeev, 1977). Attempting to explain this opposing evidence, Hamers and Blanc (2000) have contended for the importance of language valorisation and child’s social network which appear to play a paramount role in language acquisition. Moreover, Cummins has introduced two hypotheses in order to reveal an answer to the different outcomes concerning bilingualism (Hamers & Blanc, 2000). Basing their model on Lambert’s distinction between a subtractive and additive type of bilingualism, Hamers and Blanc (2000) argue for the importance of children’s social environments which must be adequate in bilingual development. The goal here is to shed a light on bilingualism and its effect on children’s cognitive development in accordance with the available data. Furthermore, a few theories concerning the reasons why bilingualism influences children the way it does will be introduced.
Evidently, bilingualism as a subject is complex and determining clear distinctions and definitions has proven difficult. Therefore, reaching absolute and undeniable answers may be problematic. Even still, studies suggesting a positive relationship between bilingualism and cognitive development far outnumber the ones indicating the opposite, where social networks and language valorisation play paramount roles in determining
level of bilingual proficiency.