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     A bilingual speaker is a person who speaks more than one language. A person can acquire this talent two different ways. Simultaneous bilingualism is when a person learns two languages at the same tie during childhood. Sequential Bilingualism is when the person learns a second language after they have learned their first language or native tongue. More than half of the people around he world are at least somewhat bilingual (Matlin,341). 

     Simultaneous bilingualism is more common in households where parents speak in two different languages with their child from birth, or when the child is introduced to the second language by age three (Lowry, 2011). One of the benefits of learning two languages at the same time is that simultaneous bilinguals tend to master their languages with native fluency easier than those individuals that learn a second language later on in life. This is not to say that achieving native fluency is impossible for an adult learning a second language. Studies have proven that there is no critical period for second language acquisition.  However, there does tend to be a gradual decline in second language skills as the age of acquisition gets higher. This just means that an adult learning a second language may have to work a little harder to obtain the native accent (Matlin, 346). Sequential bilingualism typically occurs as a result of education or relocation. Many people speak in one language with their parents and family members until they enter school where they learn the majority language spoken in that region. Also many students around the world are encouraged to take a foreign language in school and they can become bilingual or even multilingual in that way as well.  Others learn their second language after moving to another country for occupational reasons (Lowry, 2011). Whatever the reason may be for learning a second language, there are cognitive benefits and certain disadvantages associated with doing so.



  • People who are bilingual show greater mental flexibility

  • Children who are bilingual follow complicated instructions better than monolinguist. 

  • Bilinguals are better at selective attention task where they must inhibit the most obvious response by ignoring misleading information. ( ex. The dog meows.)

  • Being bilingual looks great on a resume

  • Being bilingual delays aging on the brain when you are in your 60's and older but in order for this to work you must use both languages on a regular basis.  

  • Being bilingual allows you to communicate with a wider variety of people. This can make occupational or personal travel easier, and more rewarding.  

  • Being bilingual may make it easier to learn another language (Grosjean, 2011).

  • Being bilingual helps reduce cultural ignorance (Grosjean, 2011).

  • Studies showed that elderly bilinguals had better episodic memory and executive control than their monolingual counterparts (Marian & Shook, 2012).

  • One study showed that bilinguals tended to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4.3 years after their monolingual counterparts (Marian & Shook, 2012). 





  • Children who are bilingual have smaller vocabularies in both languages compared to mono-linguist. 

  • Children have more tip of the tongue  incidents than children who only speak one language. 

  • A child who learns a foreign language by being exposed to it for the first time when they attend school may go through a Silent Period. They need time to adjust and try to understand the new language before they are ready to use it. This period can last as little as a few weeks to as long as a few months (Lowry, 2011). In the meantime their learning in school may suffer. Studies have shown that students placed in inadequate English-as-a-second-language programs tend to fall behind their monolingual peers. They are less likely to do well on the reading portions of standardized tests and are less likely to graduate (Armario, 2013).  
  • Trying to speak in only one language may require more concentration, and it can be frustrating when the languages get mixed up (Grosjean, 2011). 


Articles & Video


1. Northwestern University Experiment  

  - Researchers at Northwestern University show the benefits of being bilingual through test that were given to bilingual participants versus monoliguist.


2. Learning 40 Languages! 

- People who have mastered over 40 languages and structure changes their brain has made compared to monolinguist.


3. Bilingual Education

     - Illustrates the need for bilingual education and the benefits that come along with knowing more than one language fluently.


4. Bilinguals and Beneficial Effects on the Brain

     - A video where news-reporter talks about how bilingualism can delay aging on the brain.


5. Linguistic Society of America FAQ

     - A FAQ on what it means to be bilingual and how people learn two or more languages.


6. Bilingualism: Good for the Brain

     - This article talks about the benefits on the brain and the drawbacks of being bilingual.


7. Bilingualism: Personal Advantages and World Benefits

     - This article shows the benefits of bilingualism on the brain but also professional and social benefits of being bilingual.


8. Washington Post Article: Spanish at School Translates to Suspension

     - This is an newspaper article on a boy who was suspended from school because he was speaking Spanish in a Kansas City, KS high school.


9.  Myths about Bilingualism

     - This article disproves many myths about bilingualism.


10. The Simon Task

     - Shows the experiment used to illustrate that positive affects being bilingual has on aging minds.  


11. Billingual Babies

     - Shows how prenatal bilingual exposure affects newborn babies.


12. New Study Shows Brain Benefits Of Bilingualism

     - This news article discusses the results of a new study which expanded the previous research stating the protective effects of bilingualism


13.  Identity issues and Bilingualism

     - This news article discusses the issue of harmonizing two cultures while growing up in a bilingual household.


14. Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

     - This news article discusses the results of a study that shows that bilingual children tend to perform better on mental puzzles than monolingual children. 


15. Bilingualism Can Reduce Human Biases

     - This news article discusses the results of a study that showed that being bilingual can help reduce human biases and overcome cognitive blind-spots. 


16.  The Need Factor in Bilingualism

     - This article discusses  one professor's idea of "the need factor" in becoming bilingual. 


17. The Downside of Bilingualism

     - This article discusses some disadvantages of being bilingual. 


18. Bilingualism Helps Aphasia Sufferers Relearn Primary Language

     - This article discusses the benefits of bilingualism in the rehabilitation of aphasia sufferers. 


19. Can Bilingualism Make Preschoolers Smarter?

     - This video is about a preschool that focuses on offering a bilingual education in order to prepare their students for an increasingly globalized world. 


20. Bilingualism, Sign-Language and the Brain

     - In this video Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto talks about her research into the use of sign language and how it is processed by the brain's auditory cortex and it's implications for further research into how we communicate.  


21. Bilingualism and Psycholinguistics Research Group

     -This page highlights a number of publications by the Bilingualism and Psycholinguistics Research Group in the field of bilingualism and its implications for language processing, memory, and learning. 


This page was Created by: Keshia Sampson and further developed by Ashley Woodruff

* To my knowledge all pictures on this page are not copyrighted, if this is incorrect please contact me at 10525323@live.mercer.edu or Ashley.J.Woodruff@live.mercer.edu. Thank you!



  1. Matlin, M. (2009). Cognition. (7th ed., p. 341, 346). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. Lowry, L. (2011). Bilingualism in young children: Separating fact from fiction. Retrieved from http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Bilingualism-in-Young-Children--Separating-Fact-fr.aspx
  3. Grosjean, F. (2011, October 16). What is it like to be bilingual. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201110/what-is-it-be-bilingual
  4. Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, October 31). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. Retrieved from http://dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=39638
  5. Armario, C. (2013, April 16). Growing number of students don’t speak english at home. The dalles chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.thedalleschronicle.com/news/2013/apr/16/growing-number-students-dont-speak-english-home/



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