Problem solving and bilingual toddlers seem to go together, when it comes to the type of problem that requires knowing when to change the rules, according to a new study.
“Most of the research on the benefits of bilingualism comes from children aged four years and up,” said senior author Diane Poulin-Dubois of Concordia University in Montreal. “So showing a more precocious benefit is important.”
“What is more important is that we observed that within the bilingual group those who became more bilingual over seven months (learning more doublets or cross-language synonyms) benefited even more,” she said.
There has been previous research which linked being bilingual to cognitive benefits later in life, including increased odds of stroke recovery.
The current study compared children who were bilingual in English and French from birth in Montreal, with monolingual children in San Diego, California. The researchers performed assessments of each child’s vocabulary, and tests of memory, conflict resolution, and other mental functions.
Results showed that monolingual children had larger vocabularies than bilinguals, as expected. Children were tested for reolving conflict with blocks, putting them as instructed into buckets sized for large and small blocks. Then they were told to mix them up. putting large blocks in small buckets, and small blocks into large buckets. If the children did as they were told, they had learned that the rule of big blocks in the big bucket and little blocks in the little bucket could be discarded. Bilingual children were more likely to put the little blocks in the big bucket.