References for Cognitive Question

There is evidence that early language learning improves cognitive abilities.

Foster, K. M. & Reeves, C. K. (1989). Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) improves cognitive skills. FLES News. 2(3), 4.

This study looks at the effects of an elementary school foreign language program on basic skills by looking at the relationship between months of elementary foreign language instruction in French and scores on instruments designed to measure cognitive and metacognitive processes. The study included 67 sixth-grade students who were divided into four groups that differed by lengths of time in the foreign language program. There was a control group of 25 students who had no French instruction and three groups of students who had participated in the program for different lengths of time (6.5 months, 15.5 months, and 24.5 months). The students who did receive foreign language instruction had received 30 minutes of French instruction daily after 30 minutes of basal reading in English. The control group received an additional 30 minutes of reading instruction in place of foreign language instruction. The results of the analysis showed that the groups who received foreign language instruction scored significantly higher in three areas (evaluation on the Ross test, total score of all cognitive functions on Ross test, and total score on Butterfly and Moths test) than the control group. In particular, the students who had received foreign language instruction scored higher on tasks involving evaluation which is the highest cognitive skill according to Bloom's taxonomy. The linear trend analysis showed that the students who had studied French the longest performed the best.

Landry, R. G. (1973). The enhancement of figural creativity through second language learning at the elementary school level. Foreign Language Annals. 7(1), 111-115. from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database.

The main hypothesis of this study is that the experience of learning a second language at the elementary school level is positively correlated to divergent thinking in figural tasks. This study is concerned with flexibility in thinking through experience with a foreign language. Comparisons are made between second language learners and single language learners. The second language learners score significantly higher than do the monolingual students. Second language learning appears, therefore, not only to provide children with the ability to depart from the traditional approaches to a problem, but also to supply them with possible rich resources for new and different ideas. 

Bamford, K. W. & Mizokawa, D. T. (1991). Additive-bilingual (immersion) education: Cognitive and language development. Language Learning. 41(3), 413-429. from ERIC database.

Examination of a second grade additive-bilingual (Spanish-immersion) classroom, compared to a monolingual classroom for nonverbal problem-solving and native-language development, found significant differences in problem solving in favor of the bilingual class and no significant differences in native-language development.

Barik, H. C. & Swain, M. (1976). A longitudinal study of bilingual and cognitive development. International Journal of Psychology. 11(4), 251-263. from PsycINFO database.

Presents findings of a study of IQ data collected over a 5-yr period (kindergarten to Grade 4) on pupils in a French immersion program (anglophone pupils receiving all instruction in French except English language arts) and pupils in the regular English program. Although year-by-year results may fail to show IQ differences between the 2 groups, repeated measures analysis indicates that the immersion group had a higher IQ measure over the 5-yr period. Supportive of those studies is a further analysis on the data of immersion students classified as "high" vs "low" French achievers. High achievers obtained significantly higher IQ measures and subtest scores than low achievers, even when scores were adjusted for initial IQ and age differences. F

, & Griffore, R. J. (1979). The

  french language immersion program: Its influence on intelligence and self-esteem. Language Learning. 29(1), 45-52. from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database.

This study examined the effects of a year's attendance in a French Language Immersion Program (FLIP) on children's verbal & performance sections of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) & self-esteem, measured by the Purdue Self Concept Scale (PSCS). Eighteen 6-year-olds attended the program, while 13 6-year-olds constituted a control group which attended a regular English program. Analyses of data showed that differences between the FLIP & English control groups at the end of the school year were not significant for Verbal IQ or PSCS. Significant differences were found between groups on overall Performance IQ, Picture Arrangement, & Object Assembly. The increments in Performance IQ in the FLIP group are consistent with previously reported data suggesting that bilinguals have greater cognitive flexibility than monolinguals.

Find out more about the benefits of language learning by investigating these resources.

Met, M. (1991). Elementary school foreign languages: What research can and cannot tell us. In E. S. Silber (Ed.), Critical issues in foreign language instruction  (pp. 63-79). New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Examined are some issues in elementary school foreign-language instruction, including concerns about when to begin such instruction, which language(s) to teach, learning methods, & measures of competence among children. The cognitive, academic, & attitudinal benefits of early language learning  are discussed, along with factors that may affect the beginning grade level (resources, etc). In general it is asserted that the earlier the language is introduced, the more rapidly children stand to reap the benefits. FLES & FLEX instruction programs are considered as models, & content-based instruction is cited as most effectively transmitting the communicative & semantic nature of a foreign language to children. It is further suggested that both immersion & FLES learning programs may provide the best vehicles for producing research data on the effectiveness of primary school foreign-language study. 39 References. M. Chamberlain

Stewart, J. H. (2005). Foreign language study in elementary schools: Benefits and implications for achievement in reading and math. Early Childhood Education Journal. 33(1), 11-16. from PsycINFO database.

Educators and policy makers in many countries have been expressing concern about how to improve students' achievement in reading and math. This article explores and proposes a solution: introduce or increase foreign language study in the elementary schools. Research has shown that foreign language study in the early elementary years improves cognitive abilities. positively influences achievement in other disciplines, and results in higher achievement test scores in reading and math. Successful foreign language programs for elementary schools include immersion, FLES, and FLEX programs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

Weatherford, H. J. (1986). Personal benefits of foreign language study. ERIC digest.   

District of Columbia

There is an increasing awareness of the usefulness of foreign language training in a number of seemingly diverse areas. Foreign language students develop not only technical skills related to language use but also tangible advantages in the job market because of their increased communication skills. Mastery of languages also enhances the enjoyment of travel abroad and reduces frustration and isolation during travel in other countries. Increased international business opportunities have made meaningful communication and understanding between cultures more valuable, and the individual's ability to understand and empathize across cultural lines is increased with language study. In addition, research suggests that foreign language study enhances both cognitive development and academic achievement. While it is certain that people familiar with more than one language and culture can communicate more effectively with people of other countries and cultures, it is also possible that through learning another language and culture, people become more effective problem-solvers, closer to achieving solutions to pressing social problems because of an increased awareness of a wider set of options. (MSE)

There is evidence bilingualism correlates with increased cognitive development and abilities.

Ben-Zeev, S. (1977). The influence of bilingualism on cognitive strategy and cognitive development. Child Developmen t, 48(3), 1009-1018. from PsycINFO database.

Hypothesized that mutual interference between a bilingual child's 2 languages forces the child to develop particular coping strategies which in some ways accelerate cognitive development. The sample consisted of 96 5-8 yr olds: 2 groups of Hebrew-English bilinguals, one group tested in the

and the other group tested in


; and 2 groups of monolinguals, with those tested in the

speaking only English and those tested in


speaking only Hebrew. In all groups parent occupation and education level were similarly high. In spite of lower vocabulary level, bilinguals showed more advanced processing of verbal material, more discriminating perceptual distinctions, more propensity to search for structure in perceptual situations, and more capacity to reorganize their perceptions in response to feedback.

Ben-Zeev, S. (1977). The effect of bilingualism in children from Spanish-English low economic neighborhoods on cognitive development and cognitive strategy. Working papers on bilingualism, no. 14.  Bilingual Education Project.

A previous study found that middle-class Hebrew-English bilingual children were characterized by distinctive perceptual strategies and more advanced processing in certain verbal tasks, as compared to similar monolinguals. The present study tested whether similar strategies and response patterns will appear when the children involved are from different language groups and from relatively disadvantaged inner-city neighborhoods. The results showed that Spanish-English bilingual children manifest similar strategies to those found in the previous study (distinctive perceptual strategies and more advanced processing in certain verbal tasks), although with some attenuation . The strategies apply to nonverbal as well as verbal material. These results appeared in spite of deficiencies in vocabulary and syntax usage for the Spanish-English bilinguals relative to their control group of similar ethnic and social background.

Duncan, S. E. & De   

Edward A. (1979). Bilingualism and cognition: Some recent findings. NABE: The Journal for the National Association for Bilingual Education. 4(1), 15-50. from ERIC database.

Hispanic children in grades 1 and 3 were tested to examine the relationship between degree of bilingualism in English and Spanish, intellectual development level, and performance on two tests of cognitive-perceptual functioning or field dependence /independence. A positive, significant relationship was found between relative language proficiency and cognitive perceptual performance.

Fardeau, O. (1993). Franco-italian bilingualism in early childhood and cognitive development. [Bilinguisme precoce franco-italien et developpement cognitif] Il Forneri, 7(2), 83-99. from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database.

Investigated is the relationship between bilingualism in children and cognitive development. French-Italian bilingual children (aged 7-11) were categorized into four groups: (1) equally fluent in both languages, acquired at home; (2) equally fluent in both languages, acquired scholastically; (3) dominant in French; & (4) dominant in Italian. A control group of monolingual Italian children is identified for comparison with the results. A series of cognitive tests was administered to the students and to the control group. It is concluded that bilingualism in early childhood exerts a positive effect on the formation of cognitive processes in children.

Ginsburg, H. J. & McCoy,   

H. (1981). An empirical rationale for foreign languages in elementary schools. Modern Language Journal. 65(1), 36-42. from ERIC database.

Presents case promoting foreign languages in elementary schools using study conducted to explore relationships between bilingual and cognitive abilities of Mexican American children. Favors additive over subtractive bilingualism.

Hakuta, K. (1985). Cognitive development in bilingual instruction.    

Theory and research on bilingualism and its relationship to cognitive development have provided mixed results, especially in relation to the value of

United States

bilingual education programs. Little of the existing research on bilingualism is generalizable to


minority language groups. However, one study of children in a bilingual program designed to see if intellectual abilities are related to the student's degree of bilingualism rather than to compare bilingual and monolingual children found that a positive relation exists between bilingualism and various abilities, such as the ability to think abstractly about language and to think nonverbally. In addition, the correlation between the students' abilities in the two languages developed in the bilingual education program became stronger in the course of the program, supporting the idea of the interdependence of the languages of the bilingual.

Liedtke, W. W. & Nelson, L. D. (1968). Concept formation and bilingualism.    

Journal of Educational Research. 14(4), 225-232. from PsycINFO database.

Two samples of Grade 1 pupils, 50 monolingual and 50 bilingual were tested on a specially constructed Concepts of Linear Measurement Test based on Piaget's test items. The bilingual sample proved to be significantly superior to the monolingual sample on the concept formation test.

Ricciardelli, L. A. (1993). An investigation of the cognitive development of Italian-English bilinguals and Italian monolinguals from   

. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 14(4), 345-346. from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database.

The cognitive development of Italian-English bilingual &

Italian monolingual children (aged 5-6) was studied based on measures of metalinguistic awareness, creativity, nonverbal abilities, & reading achievement. Following proficiency testing in both languages, students were assigned to groups of high & low Italian proficiency & high & low English proficiency, producing six groups for comparison. Results of comparison of performance on the measures of cognitive development indicated that students who demonstrated high proficiency in both English & Italian achieved higher scores on the creativity, metalinguistic awareness, & reading achievement tests.

Rodriguez, Y. G. (. (1992). The effects of bilingualism on cognitive development. (EdD, ProQuest Information & Learning/Temply University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 53 (4-A), 1104.

It was the primary purpose of this study to investigate the effects of bilingualism on the cognitive development and linguistic performance of children at various ages living in the same cultural environment. It also studied the relationship between formal operational thought and a prerequisite cognitive style as typified by field independence/field dependence for both bilingual and monolingual subjects. The bilingual subjects were tested for both language dominance and language proficiency. To investigate the interrelationships between bilingualism and cognitive function, it was necessary to include both verbal and non-verbal tests of cognition. No significant differences in performance could be attributed to lingualism, grade, or age with the exception of language proficiency correlated with cognitive level on analytical reasoning. The childrens' overall cognitive level indicated some justification for the theoretical relationship between verbal and non-verbal measures of abstract thinking. The bilingual children used higher order rules more frequently than the monolingual children. The evidence seems to suggest that bilingualism may scaffold concept formation and general mental flexibility.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and the offset of age-related cognitive losses.

, E. Craik, F. I. M. Klein, R. & Viswanathan, M. (2004). Bilingualism, aging, and cognitive control: Evidence from the simon task. Psychology and Aging. 19(2), 290-303. from PsycINFO database.

Previous work has shown that bilingualism is associated with more effective controlled processing in children; the assumption is that the constant management of 2 competing languages enhances executive functions (

E. Bialystok

, 2001). The present research attempted to determine whether this bilingual advantage persists for adults and whether bilingualism attenuates the negative effects of aging on cognitive control in older adults. Three studies are reported that compared the performance of monolingual and bilingual middle-aged and older adults on the Simon task. Bilingualism was associated with smaller Simon effect costs for both age groups; bilingual participants also responded more rapidly to conditions that placed greater demands on working memory. In all cases the bilingual advantage was greater for older participants. It appears, therefore, that controlled processing is carried out more effectively by bilinguals and that bilingualism helps to offset age-related losses in certain executive processes.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and attentional control on cognitive tasks.

, E. (1999). Cognitive complexity and attentional control in the bilingual mind. Child Development, 70(3), 636-644. from PsycINFO database.

Investigates whether the bilingual advantage in control (selective attention) can be found in a nonverbal task, the dimensional change card sort, used by P. D. Zelazo and D. Frye (e.g. 1997) to assess Cognitive Complexity and Control (CCC). The author contends this problem contains misleading information characteristic of high-control tasks but minimal demands for analysis. 60 preschool children, half of whom were bilingual, were divided into a group of younger (mean age 4.2 yrs) and older (mean age 5.4 yrs) children. All the children were given a test of English proficiency (PPVT-R; L. M. Dunn and L. M. Dunn, 1981) and working memory (Visually-Cued Recall Task) to assure comparability of the groups and then administered the dimensional change card sort task and the moving word task. The bilingual children were more advanced than the monolinguals in the solving of experimental problems requiring high levels of control. It is concluded that these results demonstrate the role of attentional control in both these tasks.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and intelligence.

Peal, E. & Lambert, W. E. (1962). The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs. 76(27, Whole No. 546), 23. from PsycINFO database.

This study utilizing a group of monolingual and a group of bilingual 10-year old children obtained from 6 Montreal French schools were given verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests as well as measures of attitudes to the English and French communities. It is interesting to note that this study contrary to others found that bilinguals performed significantly better than their monolingual controls both on the verbal and the nonverbal intelligence tests.  Factor analysis supported the hypothesis that the structures of intellect for the 2 groups differed with the bilingual group possessing a more diversified set of mental abilities. Attitude studies also appear to give the bilinguals a more favorable attitude, than their monolingual comparable peers, toward the English-Canadians and less toward the French-Canadians.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and metalinguistic skills.

, E. (1988). Levels of bilingualism and levels of linguistic awareness. Developmental Psychology. 24(4), 560-567. from PsycINFO database.

A framework for relating degree of bilingualism to aspects of linguistic awareness is presented in which metalinguistic tasks are described in terms of their demands for analysis of knowledge or control of processing. Two studies are reported in which children differing in their level of bilingualism were given metalinguistic problems to solve that made demands on either analysis or control. The hypotheses were that all bilingual children would perform better than monolingual children on all metalinguistic tasks requiring high levels of control of processing and that fully bilingual children would perform better than partially bilingual children on tasks requiring high levels of analysis of knowledge. The results were largely consistent with these predictions.

Galambos, S. J. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (1990). The effects of learning two languages on levels of metalinguistic awareness. Cognition. 34(1), 1-56. from PsycINFO database.

Observed the development of metalinguistic awareness and tested the bilingual hypothesis, by comparing metalinguistic skills in 32 Spanish-speaking and 32 English-speaking monolinguals and in 32 Spanish-English bilinguals aged 4 yrs 5 mo to 8 yrs. The Spanish and English metalinguistic tests each contained 15 different ungrammatical constructions and 15 grammatically correct "fillers." For each item, the children were asked in the appropriate language to note whether the construction was correct or incorrect, to correct the errors they noted, and to explain why those errors were wrong. Data suggest that the experience of learning 2 languages hastens the development of certain metalinguistic skills in young children but does not alter the course of that development.  

Mohanty, A. K. (1992). Bilingualism and cognitive development of kond tribal children: Studies on metalinguistic hypothesis. Pharmacopsychoecologia.Special Issue: Environmental Toxicology and Social Ecology. 5(1-2), 57-66. from PsycINFO database.

Bilinguals' superiority over unilinguals on cognitive, linguistic, and academic achievement measures has been explained in terms of a metalinguistic hypothesis that suggests that use of 2 or more languages endows the language users with special awareness of objective properties of language and enables them to analyze linguistic input more effectively. A series of studies compared unilingual and balanced bilingual Kond children to investigate the metalinguistic hypothesis. These studies show that the bilinguals outperform the unilinguals on a number of cognitive, linguistic, and metalinguistic tasks, even when the differences in intelligence are controlled.  However, a study with unschooled bilingual and unilingual children showed no significant differences in metalinguistic skills. The metalinguistic hypothesis of bilinguals' superiority in cognition may need to be reexamined in the context of the effect of schooling on metalinguistic processes.

Pattnaik, K. & Mohanty, A. K. (1984). Relationship between metalinguistics and cognitive development of bilingual and unilingual tribal children. Psycho-Lingua, 14(1), 63-70. from PsycINFO database.

Investigated the relationship between metalinguistic and cognitive ability of 120 bilingual and unilingual children who were 6, 8, and 10 yrs of age. Metalinguistic ability was determined from students’ abilities to perceive rhymes in language, judge the appropriateness of corrections of others' speech, define words, substitute symbols, understand arbitrary language, and create words. Cognitive abilities were measured with Piagetian conservation tasks and the Progressive Matrices Test. Results suggest that bilingualism enhances the metalinguistic ability of children but does not improve their cognitive abilities because bilinguals are capable of switching from one linguistic code to the other. It is therefore contended that metalinguistic abilities constitute a set of abilities independent from cognitive abilities and that the better performance of bilinguals is due to their ability to reflect on language regardless of their cognitive development.  

There is a correlation between bilingualism and memory skills.

Kormi-Nouri, R. Moniri, S. & Nilsson, L. (2003). Episodic and semantic memory in bilingual and monolingual children. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 47-54. from PsycINFO database.

Although bilinguality has been reported to confer advantages upon children with respect to various cognitive abilities, much less is known about the relation between memory and bilinguality. In this study, 60 (30 girls and 30 boys) bilingual and 60 (30 girls and 30 boys) monolingual children in three age groups (ages 7.9-9.4, 9.7-11.4 and 11.7-13.3 yrs) were compared on episodic memory and semantic memory tasks. Episodic memory was assessed using subject-performed tasks (with real or imaginary objects) and verbal tasks, with retrieval by both free recall and cued recall. Semantic memory was assessed by word fluency tests. Positive effects of bilingualism were found on both episodic memory and semantic memory at all age levels.  These findings suggest that bilingual children integrate and/or organize the information of two languages and so bilingualism creates advantages in terms of cognitive abilities (including memory).

There is a correlation between bilingualism and problem solving ability.

Stephens, Mary Ann Advisor: Esquivel, Giselle B. (1997). Bilingualism, creativity, and social problem-solving. (PhD,   

The present study investigated the effects of bilingualism on the creativity and social problem-solving skills of 84 Hispanic children from Spanish-speaking homes. The subjects were students from a small city school district in the

New York

metropolitan area. Only students demonstrating high levels of proficiency (60% or higher on the Language Assessment Battery) were considered to be proficient in the language being assessed. Students who demonstrated proficiency in both Spanish and English were considered 'bilingual' for the purposes of the study. Those meeting the criterion in only one language were considered to be 'monolingual.' The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking was administered as the measure of creativity, and the Preschool Interpersonal Problem Solving Scale was used to measure social problem-solving abilities. The Ravens Progressive Matrices were used to measure general cognitive ability. General cognitive ability was used as a covariate in the statistical analyses. The results indicated that the bilingual children outperformed their monolingual counterparts in the area of social problem solving, but not in the area of creativity. The positive relationship seen between bilingualism and social problem solving further strengthens the research in the area of the positive advantages of bilingualism.

There is a correlation between bilingualism and improved verbal and spatial abilities.


The present study investigated the development of verbal and spatial abilities over time within a group of Spanish(L1)-English(L2) bilingual children currently attending Kindergarten and First-grade bilingual education programs. The study was designed in response to methodological gaps in current research on bilinguals' cognitive development; in particular, the study examined the cognitive effects of bilingualism on children who are just beginning to learn a second language and proposed a measure of degree of bilingualism that effectively controls for basic ability in the dominant language. The results firmly supported the claim that bilingualism fosters the development of verbal and spatial abilities.  The relationship between degree of bilingualism and cognitive abilities was particularly strong for children of low second-language proficiency. This pattern of results questioned the validity of Cummins' threshold hypothesis and suggested a new, alternative threshold hypothesis. The new (Diaz) threshold hypothesis states that variability in second-language proficiency would be related to variability in cognitive measures only before a certain threshold of proficiency in the second language is attained. Two different sets of statistical analyses gave support to a cause-effect model where degree of bilingualism is the causal factor affecting cognitive abilities. An experimental study examined the construct of cognitive flexibility and provided some support for the claim that the nonverbal advantages observed in bilingual children could be explained by their use of verbal mediation in the processing of nonverbal tasks.

Find out more about the benefits of bilingualism by investigating these reviews of the literature.


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