Two tongues are better than one, claim experts

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By Karrie Gillett

PEOPLE who learn to speak two languages from birth are the best at multi-tasking, a new study has revealed.

The research looked at adults who were raised as bilingual and tested their abilities to carry out different assignments

And results show that those who are fluent in more than one language are less prone to distraction.

Now, the team at the University of Edinburgh are advising parents to encourage their children to take up other languages from an early age.

Professor Antonella Sorace said the results revealed bilingual kids can adjust better to tasks in everyday life.

She said: “The laboratory experiments show that children who speak more than one language are able to switch from one assignment to another quicker.

“They are better placed to inhibit irrelevant information and adjust to a new set of instructions.

“It shows that constantly switching from speaking one language to another has repercussions in other domains.

“For example, bilingual people are able to ignore details which are irrelevant and are better at doing more than one task at a time.”

The research builds on previous studies which show that bilingual speakers find it easier to block out potential distractions.

With more than 160 languages spoken in Scotland’s schools, researchers say it is more important than ever that teachers understand the benefits of bilingualism.

Professor Sorace, leader of the university’s Bilingualism Matters group, said parents should not feel guilty for speaking their native language at home as having two languages at an early age is an important resource.

She said: “Many parents and teachers still think that bilingualism can cause confusion and intellectual delay in children.

“In reality, there are no such drawbacks and this research shows that bringing children up bilingually could have further benefits besides being able to speak two languages.”