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What are the effects of bilingualism on cognitive development? Make sure to address all key areas—language, attention, memory, and so on. Is bilingualism a positive or negative influence on this development?  

Bilingualism can have both positive and negative effects on cognitive development. On the negative side, vocabulary learning may be slower in bilingual children, but on the positive side, bilingual children tend to have better memories and attention as well as more efficient learning skills. Researchers have also noticed greater brain activity and density in bilingual people.

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Bilingualism refers to the fluency of a speaker in two languages. Many children in today's world learn two languages at the same time, and this can actually have both positive and negative effects on their cognitive development, according to multiple studies conducted over the past several years.

Difficulties can arise...

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Bilingualism refers to the fluency of a speaker in two languages. Many children in today's world learn two languages at the same time, and this can actually have both positive and negative effects on their cognitive development, according to multiple studies conducted over the past several years.

Difficulties can arise as children try to learn both languages simultaneously. The brain can only handle so much information at once, so as children pick up new vocabulary in both languages, they don't learn words as quickly in either as children do who only speak one language. Sometimes bilingual children take longer to pull up the correct word in one of their languages than children who only speak one. The former group has to sort out the increased information.

Yet at the same time, studies have found that bilingual children actually have better memories and longer attention spans than children who only speak one language. Bilingual children are better at blocking out distractions and using cognitive control mechanisms to distinguish between conflicting stimuli. Some studies suggest that these abilities arise from a higher activity rate in some areas of bilingual children's brains. Bilingual people may be more efficient at encoding and processing information.

Studies further suggest that bilingual children, after the initial issues with vocabulary expansion, may be better learners than children who only speak a single language. They tend to focus better, remember more, and acquire information faster. Researchers have even suggested that bilingualism might slow the onset of dementia, for the bilingual brain seems to be more active and dense in some areas.

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