After speaking with my aunt about her grandson learning to speak with bilingual parents, I was interested to look at the cognitive differences in learning related to this class. A lot of the articles debate whether or not having bilingual parents delay the onset of infants speaking, but there is conflicting evidence that also says that growing up bilingual affects your brain in so many positive ways. Studies show that “monolingual” babies recognize phonetic sounds earlier, in both the language they were used to hearing and a foreign language, but after 10 months have “neural commitment” and don’t recognize new languages. On the other hand, bilinguals babies did not recognize these same phonetic sounds until 10-12 months, but were then able to distinguish between the phonetic sounds in both languages, and don’t have the more narrow minded brain wiring. When shown silent videos of people speaking, brain waves show that monolingual babies recognized mouth movements earlier on and were engaged to recognize when a language that they didn’t know was being spoken, but at 8 months stopped responding and lost interest, whereas bilingual infants learned to recognize facial and mouth movements from video later on, but remained engaged for longer, trying to figure out what the unknown foreign language was. This suggests that bilingual babies have better logic solving skills, are better at multitasking, and have higher executive function. This seems like enough positive traits for me to believe it is worth the delay in onset in speaking to raise a child speaking two languages. Having your brain wired better to handle multitasking and logic problems is a huge advantage throughout life, and there is no reason for the child to need to be speaking at such a young age. The delay in onset of speaking is not a sign of lower cognitive abilities, so it doesn’t seem like something to worry about. This is just the baby taking their time to figure out both languages.

Hearing  Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language

3 thoughts on “

  1. Jamie Lucas

    This was a very interesting blog post! I’m particularly interested in this subject because my significant other is bilingual and his parents speak little English. They understand a lot but speak very little. I’ve always assumed that if we have children that they will be bilingual but never really thought too much about how it would affect their language development or other cognitive skills really. After doing a little bit of research online I learned that in addition to improved executive function, bilingual children also have better working memory than monolingual children. There was a study done on 56 5 year olds that utilized a Simon type game that showed working memory was even further improved in bilingual children when the task contains additional executive demands (Morales & Calvo, pp 188-189). It just seems that learning two languages from a young age, though it may take a little longer to gain fluency in each language makes the mind more flexible in so many other ways. It makes me wish I had learned another language. I’ve have 4 years of Spanish in high school and then two in college and I honestly haven’t retained much. I wonder what other skills would have been improved besides working memory had I grown up learning two languages!

    Morales, J., & Clavo, A. (2013). Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114(2), 187-202. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from

  2. Melissa Phillips

    Goldstein, B. (2011). Language in Cognitive Psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience. Belmont: Wadsworth Cenage Learning., 3(11), 293-323

  3. Melissa Phillips

    Wow this was a great background study on language! I do however have mixed feelings on whether or not bilingual children have better logic skills, better at multi tasking and cognitive functioning. While it is possible, does this apply if the parents utilize both languages congruently? I ask this because I have known people who only allow their children to speak their “home” language at home but speak English outside of the home in order to communicate with friends, teachers and etc. How do the children learn then before say attending school with other children who only know English at such a young age? While the delay may be a positive, it could also pose a risk. Our book suggests that people should speak in a “given-new contract”. This states that the speaker should construct sentences so that they include both given information and new information (Goldstein, 2011) Without this, the information could take longer to comprehend. With that being said, could going from two different languages still negatively affect a child at a young age? Possibly be taken as a learning disability when they reach school age?

Leave a Reply