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Bilingual youngsters 'perform better in noisy lessons'

14/10/2014 Kelly
Bilingual children tend to learn better in noisy classrooms than pupils who speak just one language, new research has revealed.

According to the study, which was conducted by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University, youngsters who speak two languages are better able to filter out background noises, aiding their ability to learn.

The researchers studied 40 children, aged between seven and ten, at a Cambridge primary school. Half of these were monolingual English speakers, while the rest spoke an additional language, including Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Armenian, Bengali, Polish, Russian and Portuguese.

Pupils were asked to undertake a range of computer-based tests, which involved identifying statements while background noises were played through headphones.

Some 63 per cent of bilingual pupils displayed a high degree of accuracy in comprehension, compared with 51 per cent for monolinguals.

The performance of the youngsters who spoke two languages also improved with age, whereas this trend was not observed in their monolingual peers.

Quoted in the Telegraph, Dr Roberto Filippi, senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin, said: "Primary schools are the key stages for the development of formal learning in the first years of life. However, they are also remarkably noisy.

"Therefore the ability to filter out auditory interference is particularly important within the context of an educational environment."

Dr Filippi described the observation that the ability to control interference improves with age as a "remarkable finding".

He added that cognitive development is enhanced as a result of learning another language, and this highlights the importance of languages in the modern education system.

The results could explain why children who speak English as a second language are beginning to overtake native speakers in a range of subjects. In 2013, they performed better than their native English-speaking counterparts in a number of GCSEs.

The results of the study are published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

Posted by Alan DouglasADNFCR-2164-ID-801754167-ADNFCR
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