The bilingual advantage - taking a closer look

child development language acquisition languages linguistics Jan 24, 2022
A bilingual baby

Does being bilingual make you cleverer?

The science of bilingualism is relatively new, with ever-evolving parameters as neuroscience, behavioural science, and cognitive science develop new cross-disciplinary ways of looking at how we juggle multiple languages, and whether there are benefits for our brains in doing so.

There is no 'golden paper' that proves definitively that there is a universal cognitive advantage, and that bilingualism makes you better at thinking in general.

A brief look at the history of bilingual research shows how much it has changed over the last century, with bilingualism being blamed for speech delays in the 20s-50s (a myth that still haunts us, and one for another post!), to there being a euphoric moment around cognitive advantages (as the research pendulum swung back the other way in the 60s and 70s).

Researchers are always gnawing away at the edges of this science. It's very hard to measure bilinguals against monolinguals, and why would that be helpful anyway? The fact that there was a monolingual 'yardstick' in research for so long really shows how the monolingual mindset dominates in the English-speaking world.

Think of each research paper as a snapshot, a moment in time with certain parameters (the people studied, their context, genetics, diet, education, every nuance of their life will affect results, as well as the choice of research methods), and that each snapshot is part of viewing the whole picture.

It's like one of those massive photos made up of many smaller photos. You have to zoom out a long way, and see how they all layer on top of each other, to see the whole picture. 

There are however endless other benefits to learning languages. Tap here to read more about the real bilingual advantages.


Ready to start exploring languages with your little ones?

Join our Children's Languages Adventure! For a single PayWhatYouCan (£5+) payment, you'll receive lifetime access to 32 multilingual singalong videos & 100+ downloads, plus access to the BB online community.

Designed for 0-7s and their grown ups!



We explore the real science behind how young children learn to speak, along with tips for learning languages with your little people and some awesome FREE languages treats!  

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.