In the 1960s, French Immersion was fashioned out of a private school initiative by our own Harry Giles who, along with a small group of parents, saw a distinct advantage to being bilingual in the Canada of that day. Eventually, after significant impassioned public debate, full funding for public school French Immersion was introduced in 1985. The debate was cast in stone at that point and endures even today.
Let’s ignore the discussion on French Immersion for the purpose of this blog, and focus on what has emerged from recent studies as it relates to cognition.
So what has been discovered? A lot more than anticipated as, like all new art forms, the immersion initiative created unintended outcomes! But not for Harry Giles, who grasped the impact on what he termed ‘operating intelligence’. The influence on cognitive functioning has become more defined since his early musings.
The research affirms that cognitive benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism appear to start as early as six months – a good sign for those in bilingual daycare settings like The Giles School PreK to SK programme!
Many parents are concerned that the exposure to a new language not spoken at home will delay their child’s development, but the research has demonstrated that is not the case. In fact, bilingual children display better problem-solving skills, both verbal and non-verbal. They also appear to be able to better contend with competing stimuli encountered at the same time and demonstrate an increased ability to multi-task. Also emerging is the conclusion that not only does the way the brain processes information change, but also a modification in the structure of the brain occurs. As well, and not surprisingly, there have been a number of linguistic benefits delineated by the research.
As researchers attempt to isolate the definitive variables in play with bilingualism and multilingualism and find themselves in great debate at times, it seems that the old adage “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true for the purposes of this dialogue.
In reflection and on review of the studies, I whimsically wonder if it begins to illuminate why our children do so well on the Canadian Test of Basic Skills – even though the tests are conducted in English and our language of instruction is predominantly French!
One other interesting outcome of the research relates to fending off cognitive decline. So, if you are truly investing in your child’s future – long and short-term – consider the French Immersion programme.
As no one tool can be used in the creation of a fine piece of sculpture, the same holds true in moulding your child’s development. The Giles School provides early childhood programme building blocks, essential to elevating your child’s development now and in the future.