“A distinct language-learning benefit for people who grow up bilingual”

23 Oct

An interesting piece in Quartz:

The study found that the bilingual brain seems less taxed by linguistic acquisition than the monolingual brain. The research team, led by neuroscientist Michael Ullman of Georgetown University, discovered bilinguals were quicker to process a new language naturally at low levels of proficiency. They also seemed to need to pay less attention than monolinguals when using a new tongue at higher levels of proficiency.

Here is the abstract from the paper:

It has been suggested that bilinguals learn additional languages ‘better’ than monolinguals. However, evidence is sparse, particularly for grammar. We examined behavioral and neural correlates of learning an additional (artificial) language in early Mandarin–English bilinguals, compared to English monolinguals. Following grammar instruction, participants practiced comprehension and production, and judged grammaticality at low and high proficiency while event-related potentials (ERPs) were acquired. Bilinguals and monolinguals did not differ on behavioral measures, but showed distinct ERP patterns. At low proficiency only bilinguals showed a P600, a common ERP correlate of syntactic processing in native speakers of languages. At high proficiency both groups showed P600s, though the monolinguals also evidenced an anterior positivity not typically found in native speakers of languages during syntactic processing. These findings suggest that, even without bilingual/monolingual behavioral differences, bilinguals show ERP patterns for an additional language that are more similar to those of native speakers of languages.

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