Are Bilingual Children more Open-Minded? Study

First Posted: Mar 05, 2014 08:40 PM EST

A recent study examines the benefits of raising a bilingual child, showing that learning two languages early on could help them be more open-minded.

According to researchers from Concordia University, they found that both monolingual and bilingual children both like to speak to their mothers in their native tongues rather than with peers who have a foreign accent.

Lead study authors and psychology professors Krista Byers-Heinlein and Diane Poulin-Dubois found that children who speak one language often prefer to interact with those who just share their native language. However, bilingual children prove more open-minded with their unilingual peers and are "accent-free."

For the study, researchers recruited 44 Montreal-area children between the ages of five and six who were shown two faces on a computer screen. They then worked on audio recordings and were asked to play for each face: one read a phrase in the child's native accent, while another read the same phrase in a foreign accent. Researchers then deliberately chose a foreign accent that was unfamiliar to any of the children and varied associations between faces and voices.

Participants were then asked to point to the faces that they would prefer to have a friend. Most chose faces that corresponded with their native accent.

Researchers believe that the study shows implications for parents regarding their lack of self-awareness regarding accent and superficial measures of character.

"We show biases early on, so it might be necessary to educate all kids, regardless of their linguistic background, about what an accent is and how it doesn't reflect anything about people other than the fact that they are not speaking their native language," Byers-Heinlein said, via a press release.

What do you think?

More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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