Toronto Star - - LIFE -

There is re­search, in­clud­ing some done by York Uni­ver­sity’s Ellen Bi­a­lystok, which has found that chil­dren who speak mul­ti­ple lan­guages have smaller vo­cab­u­lar­ies in each lan­guage than those who speak just one.

In one pa­per pub­lished by Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, Bi­a­lystok looked at vo­cab­u­lary tests com­pleted by al­most a thou­sand chil­dren be­tween the ages of 5 and 9 years old, half bilin­gual and half mono- lin­gual, mono­lin­guals scored an av­er­age 105 com­pared to 95 of bilin­guals. In a later study, Bi­a­lystok and three other re­searchers looked at more than 1,700 chil­dren be­tween ages 3 and 10 and found, again, that those who were bilin­gual had smaller vo­cab­u­lar­ies than kids who spoke a sin­gle lan­guage.

“There is ev­i­dence on all kinds of lin­guis­tic pro­cess­ing tasks — how rapidly you can re­trieve words, what’s your vo­cab­u­lary size, how quickly can you process sen­tences — in all of those ways bilin­guals are slower,” Bi­a­lystok said. “It’s a re­li­able find­ing and you could say if we want to call the other things ad­van­tages you’d have to call this a dis­ad­van­tage, but I don’t think it has much con­se­quence.”

While sev­eral lan­guage and brain ex­perts in­ter­viewed by the Star ac­knowl­edged sim­i­lar find­ings with re­gards to the vo­cab­u­lar­ies of chil­dren who learn mul­ti­ple lan­guages, none ad­vised against it.

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