New research suggests that bilingual children might become better at communication than their peers who only speak one language. This is because in paying attention to words, bilingual children are also paying attention to body language, tone, and overall perspective. Children who are exposed to multiple languages learn those skills from the start. Ultimately, this could make them better at communication.
According to the co author of the study,psychology professor Boaz Keysar,“Children are really good at acquiring language. They master the vocabulary and the syntax of the language, but they need more tools to be effective communicators. A lot of communication is about perspective taking, which is what our study measures.” Keysar is an internationally known expert on communication and cognition.
For the study, University of Chicago researchers studied 72 children ages 4 to 6. The children were in three categories: Monolinguals spoke only English, exposures spoke English but were exposed to other languages, and bilinguals. The children played a game with an adult that involved moving pieces around a standing grid, with some of the objects blocked.
The object of the game was for children to move objects with the intent of seeing if they accounted for their inability to see the whole grid. Children who were exposed to other languages perfermoed best. Those who only spoke English moved the correct object 50 percent of the time. Those who were exposed to other languages dhose the correct object 76 percent of the time. Bilingual children performed the best at 77 percent.