Bilingualism is the ability to speak two languages and the research tells us that it can have a positive impact on the brain’s structure. The study was published recently in Brain Structure and Function and it focuses on how bilingualism can affect a growing brain.
The participants were aged 3 to 21 years old and the researchers wanted to see whether the brains of the children who speak two languages or more had less or more gray brain matter as compared to those who speak one language. But, the study shows that it’s not true and this is why it is very significant research.
The research tells that the bilingual children had a more gray matter and more integrity in the white matter. Gray matter is an important component of the central nervous system and it plays a role in muscle control and sensory perceptions like hearing and seeing, memory, emotions, decision making, and speech. The density of the gray matter increases until adolescence. If a person has more gray matter it could mean that the aging brain appears to be younger than a person with less gray matter. Where the gray matter controls the daily functions, the white matter can also affect learning and brain functions. It changes when a person completes a complex task.
A study published in 2010 showed that the white matter of a monolingual brain has less integrity than the bilingual brain. The primary reason for this is that understanding and speaking multiple languages is a tough task. So, the white matter changes, just like when a musician practices for hours.
The findings of the new research correct the misconceptions that bilingual children suffer from developmental delays or find it hard to master either language. Children who speak two languages produce speech a little later than their peers, but it happens within the developmental windows. They will be able to understand words at the same pace just like the other kids.
The children may use both languages in one sentence, but this is not because of the confusion, but because they can switch between two languages.