Early Bilingualism Helps With Learning Languages Later in Life, Study Shows

Bilingual people may be better equipped to learn new languages than those who only speak one language, according to a study published in the academic journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. The research points to a distinct language-learning benefit for people who grow up bilingual or learn another language at an early age.

A team of researchers paired 13 bilingual college students who grew up in the United States with Mandarin-speaking parents, and learned both English and Mandarin at an early age, against a group of 16 monolingual college students, who spoke only English.

The researchers studied Mandarin-English bilinguals because both of these languages differ structurally from the new language being learned.

The students were tasked with learning to speak and understand a 13-word artificial language called Brocanto2.  They studied Brocanto2, which is similar in structure to Romance languages such as Spanish and French, over the course of about a week. Using an artificial language, which has been used in other studies, allowed the researchers to completely control the learners' exposure to the language.

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