In today’s times, being bilingual is certainly an advantage. It helps open up other opportunities, especially in terms of career advancement. For example, more and more areas in the United States show the growing need for more bilingual speakers, given the growing diversity in certain regions. At the same time, studies have shown that being bilingual also affects the development and activities of the brain.
Task switching is the capacity of a person to be able to refocus on a different goal. It is the ability of a person to switch from one task to another. This is certainly an important skill to have because it shows a person’s adaptability to a changing situation.
Carnegie Mellon University Study
A study by the Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 showed that being bilingual has a positive effect on certain abilities of the person. Task-switching is one such activity that is boosted in bilinguals compared to monolinguals.
The task-switching advantage of the study participants was observed. Participants in the study were college students, with a total of 88 participants. The participants had about the same SAT scores to ensure that the participants had similar cognitive ability. The subjects were grouped into two categories, the monolinguals and bilinguals.
Participants were made to sit in front of a screen and were presented with two tasks that they could control or respond to using their hands. After a given cue, one hand was used to identify the color or the cue while another hand was used to identify its shape.
Two variations of the study involved single-task trials and mixed-task trials, the mixed task trials being the more difficult of the two tests. The reaction time of the participants was noted.
The results showed that the bilinguals were faster than their monolingual counterparts when doing task-switching. The study further supported the results of previous studies showing that the enhancement of executive control of the brain is a benefit of being bilingual.
In the United States, about 20% of today’s youth are bilingual. That means that one in five children can speak a language other than English. Because of the growing number of bilinguals in the population, studies on the benefits and effects of bilingualism are becoming more and more important.
Many other studies in the past have supported the theory that being bilingual has definite cognitive advantages. For example, it was found that although bilingual children tend to learn the English language more slowly than their monolingual counterparts, the bilinguals are better at multi-tasking. Another skill that bilinguals tend to have an advantage over their monolingual counterparts is the ability to focus their attention. A Northwestern University study in 2012 also showed that the benefits to boosting “attention, inhibition and encoding of sound.”
All these studies simply support that it pays to be bilingual.