A brand new study on comparing the auditory processing of bilingual (Spanish/English) teens compared to monolingual English teens found that the bilingual adolescents were more easily able to hear a sound ("da") with background noise than the monolingals. Study authors explain: "We found that adolescent bilinguals, listening to the speech syllable [da], encoded the stimulus more robustly than age-matched monolinguals. Specifically, bilinguals showed enhanced encoding of the fundamental frequency, a feature known to underlie pitch perception and grouping of auditory objects. This enhancement was associated with executive function advantages." This means that bilingualism promotes the brain's ability to pick out sounds rather than be confused by auditory stimuli - biological evidence for the neural plasticity of bilinguals.
What does this mean for educators of language learners? Promote and celebrate bilingualism among your students!
(reference: Jennifer Krizman, Viorica Marian, Anthony Shook, Erika Skoe, & Nina Kraus (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. April 30, 2012.)
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