According to the Language magazine, a study was recently published by Pascale Engel de Abreu and her colleagues from the University of Luxembourg which examined the effects of bilingualism on the functioning of low income children.
The study was done according to Engel de Abreu because low-income children are a vulnerable population, and studying cognitive processes in these children represents a significant advancement in the understanding of childhood development.
In their study, a total of 80 second grade students from low-income families participated. About half of the children were first or second generation immigrants to Luxembourg, who spoke both Luxembourgish and Portuguese. The other half of the children only spoke Portuguese and lived in Northern Portugal.
For this experiment both groups completed test in Portuguese and the bilingual children also completed the task in Luxembourgish in order to test their vocabulary skills. The researchers examined how the children represented knowledge in memory, using two different tasks to see how much visual information the children could keep in mind at a given time, according to the Language magazine.
According to Engel de Abreu, this is the first study of its kind to show that although minority bilingual children from low-income families face linguistic challenges, they also demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains.
The researchers also believe that these findings could help reduce the achievement gab between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Their findings, according to the Language magazine suggest that intervention programs that are based on second language teaching are good places to start for future research. Engel de Abreu ended by saying that foreign languages widen children’s linguistic and cultural horizons, and help foster healthy development of executive control and therefore should be pursued.