Bilingualism Is Harmful And Interferes With Healthy Development

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Bilingualism, or an ability to use at least two languages (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2004), has been studied for decades. A quick literature search will reveal that research on this topic goes back as far as the 1800s. This is hardly surprising considering that at least half of the world’s population is bilingual (Grosjean, 2010, p. 13), with some European countries reaching rates as high as 99 percent (European Commission, 2006, p. 3). Interestingly enough, until relatively recently it was believed that exposure to multiple languages at home was to blame for “producing mental retardation as measured by intelligence tests” (Goodenough, 1926, p. 393). The assumption that bilingualism is harmful and interferes with healthy development has been since debunked by research findings indicating exposure to two languages from birth enhances cognitive function (Bialystok, Craik, & Luk, 2012). Although similar misguided perceptions have not vanished completely from our society and many educators and clinical practitioners continue to advise parents against exposing their children to multiple languages (Bialystok et al., 2012), bilingualism has become a desired trait in an increasingly globalized world and an integral part of the educational system in many countries. A growing body of research supports the idea that speaking multiple languages results in several benefits. Bilingualism has been shown to enhance mental flexibility, generally understood as “the

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