Research shows that babies raised in bilingual households possess brain activity related to executive functioning when they’re just 11-months-old. The executive functioning covers a plethora of mental abilities that include problem-solving, shifting attention and several other desirable cognitive traits, and these traits and brain activities are evidently differentiable when the babies reach 11 months of age.
Lead author of the report, Naja Ferjan Ramírez from University of Washington, states that even before the babies start talking, the ones in bilingual house get practice at tasks linked to executive function. This goes on to show that bilingualism not only develops a child’s language skills, but also cognitive functions. The brains of babies from a bilingual families are more open to learning new sounds, as compared with those from monolingual backgrounds.
The team employed magnetoencephalography (MEG), which measures the magnetic charges sparked by active nerve cells. They then compared the brain response to the language sounds of sixteen 11-month babies – eight from English-only families, and eight from Spanish-English families – and observed that the children from Spanish-English households had stronger brain responses to speech sounds.
These reports suggest that this enhancement bilingualism gives to executive function in the brain could be because these children have to switch more often between languages, allowing them to practice and improve these skills on a regular basis.
Ferzan stated that the 11-month-old baby brain is learning language(s) present in its environment, and is equally capable of learning two languages as it is of learning just a single language. Their results prove that not only children are very capable of learning new languages, but that early childhood is the best time for doing so.