SuperiorSocial and Cognitive Skills of Bilinguals
Bilinguals enjoy higher social and cognitive skills than theircounterparts, monolinguals. Bilinguals enjoy these obvious advantagesbecause learning a second language enables them to create newconversations and have new experiences. The superiority ofbilingualism and multilingualism has been at the center stage of manypsychological researches. In the past few years, many of theseresearches have been able to unearth less obvious superior advantagesbilinguals/multilingual people have as compared to monolinguals. Someof the key advantages seen were improved cognitive skills with betterexecution, critical problem solving and increased function inmentally demanding activities.
This notion of increased cognitive skills and better social abilitieswas supported by two researches done on children from bothmonolingual and multilingual environments. One research study wasdone by Katherine Kinzler’s Developmental Psychology Lab inassociation with other psychologists from the University of Chicagoin 2015. The results of the study showed that multilingual childrenhad better communication skills than the monolingual children. Thestudy involved children between the ages of 4-6 who came fromdifferent linguistic environments. They were presented with scenarioswhere they had to put into consideration the perspectives of otherpeople in order to unravel the meaning.
A car example was used to try and get the child to understand theadult’s perspective of a small, medium and large car. When theywere told to move the smallest car, children with multilingualunderstanding were able to know that the adult was referring to themedium size car the adult could see and not the smallest car thechild could see. This showed that bilingual children had bettercognitive skills of considering both the content and surroundingcontext of the utterances received and were able to come up with theright responses.
It was also found that these multilingual children had socialexperiences that enabled their routine practice to understand theperspectives of others. The research also found that the monolingualchildren who were constantly exposed to another language were justthe same as bilingual children. This was true especially for childrenwhose grandparents spoke a different language from their primarylanguage. Therefore, being raised in environments where multiplelanguages were spoken was a driving factor for multilingualism.
In another follow up research by the same researchers, much youngerchildren were used between ages 14-16 months who could not speak(Kinzler, 2016). These children were given two bananas to reach outfor, one of the bananas hidden from the adult. Multilingual childrenand monolinguals who were constantly exposed to another language,were able to understand the perspective of the adults and thereforereached for the banana that the adult could see. Monolingual childrenreached for both bananas equally. This showed that multilingualism orbilingualism facilitated interpersonal understanding, skills andhelps to understand the perspective of the adult.
From the evidence put forward in these two studies I concur andsupport that multilingualism is superior to monolingualism in termsof social and cognitive skills. Multilingual people have anunderstanding other people and can create conversation with them ascompared to monolinguals. Multilingual people are better in problemsolving. In the world we live today, major negotiations and peacekeeping missions are done by people with multilingual understandingbasically because they stand a better chance of understanding bothsides of the arbitration. Being a multi-lingual, I am also able tocommunicate and see other people’s perspectives better than myfriends who are monolinguals.
In conclusion, multilingual people have superior advantages overmonolingual speakers. Learning a second language is not easy foranyone and takes a long time to grasp the necessary languagerequirements. A key driving factor of multilingualism isenvironmental surrounding, that is, being born in an environmentalsurrounding with multiple languages. This improves ones social andcognitive skills.
Kinzler, Katherine. (2016, March 11). The Superior Social Skillsof Bilinguals. The New York Times, 1.