The cognitive benefits of bilingualism are in the news and public consciousness frequently these days. Recent studies show that bilingual children perform better on tests of cognitive flexibility as toddlers, and show an increase in executive function in the elementary years. In Utah, a Mandarin-immersion program has raised student test scores and inspired a long wait-list of potential families. When working with student data at Hebrew Public, I get to compare the performance of our bilingual-immersion students to students at comparable schools, and see these test benefits for myself.
Interestingly, the mental advantages of bilingualism may extend to the later stages of life. There is some indication that bilingualism may delay the development of dementia and even be protective of normal cognition post-stroke.
Bilingual education programs also have the potential to create lifelong economic benefits. Scientists at MIT have found that there is a small annual salary premium for bilingualism. This increase in average salary grows when considering languages with a low supply of fluent speakers in the U.S. that are connected to economically valuable trading partners. Modern Hebrew, the language in which our students are immersed, meets both of these criteria!
Katherine Kuprenas, Research Assistant