Benefits of Bilingualism
The benefits of Dual Language Immersion and bilingualism includes the following:
In the past two decades, research has provided dramatic new insights into how young children acquire language, and how this affects their brain development. In fact, neuroscientists who studied images of the human brain have found that learning a second language actually increases brain density (Mechelli, Crinion, Noppeney, O’Doherty, Ashburner, Fackowiak, & Price, 2004). Young bilinguals show advanced skills in non-verbal executive control skills, inhibitory control (ability to resist a habitual response or information not relevant), working memory or updating (ability to hold information in mind and mentally manipulate it), and cognitive flexibility ability to adjust to changes in demands or priorities and switch between goals (Barac, Bialystok, Castro, & Sanchez, 2014; Kuhl, 2011). This means that dual language learners possess the kinds of skills that are increasingly critical to 21st century college and career success—thinking flexibly, focusing attention when there is conflicting information, selecting relevant over irrelevant information, and switching strategies if a solution is not forthcoming.
In fact, in a recent publication by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of English Language Acquisition (2015, p. 97) put forth the statement concerning DLI benefits to students and society:
There are, without doubt, many benefits—for students and society—that come from having command of more than one language, and from the interaction between cultures that language learning brings. Developing proficiency in more than one language enhances career opportunities, promotes cross-cultural understanding, and improves communication skills (Tochon, 2009; Rumbaut, 2014). Students benefit cognitively as well; numerous studies have shown the cognitive benefits associated with bilingualism (Esposito & Baker-Ward, 2013; Ball, 2010; Espinosa, 2013; Sandhofer & Uchikoshi, 2013; Barac et al., 2014).
In light of the consistent research findings that purport multiple advantages for dual language learners, it is no surprise that the number of DLI programs is increasing exponentially across the U.S. over the past few years (Center of Applied Linguistics, 2011).