Does Bilingualism Truly Imply Cognitive Superiority?
It is a common narrative that bilingualism leads to cognitive advantages. In other words, that bilingual individuals have cognitive benefits versus their peers in areas other than linguistic aptitude.
But is this true?
The answer is, “it depends”.
As this piece in Aeon Magazine describes:
There is more than one type of bilingualism. A ‘simultaneous bilingual’ learns two languages from birth; an ‘early sequential bilingual’ might speak one language at home but learn to speak the community language at school; and a ‘late sequential bilingual’ might grow up with one language and then move to a country that speaks another. The differences between these three types are not trivial – they often lead to different levels of proficiency and fluency in multiple aspects of language, from pronunciation to reading comprehension.
Certain bilinguals tend to have very different childhood and lifestyle patterns than monolinguals. They have traveled more extensively early in life, and have interacted with and immersed themselves in two (or more) cultures. Nutritional and stress patterns may also play a role, as the article indicates.
Therefore, there is an inherent bias in comparing the two populations – bilinguals and monolinguals – and isolating any cognitive differences to bilingualism itself is far from straightforward, at least for the time being.
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