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Bilingual Kids and Storytelling

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—There are more than 12 million bilingual kids in the United States, and that number continues to grow. Some studies indicate that being bilingual may put these children at a disadvantage when it comes to vocabulary words because they do not hear the same number of words as monolingual children. But new research suggests that parents of bilingual kids may have nothing to worry about.

Findings from a study at the University of Alberta, Canada suggest that bilingual kids use just as many words as monolingual children when telling a story. The scientists analyzed data from four to six-year-old kids. They saw that both bilingual and monolingual kids used the same amount of unique words when they told a story.

The researchers say that this was due to bilingual kids’ greater cognitive flexibility, which is their ability to switch between thinking about different concepts. Bilingual kids tell stories in creative ways using a variety of words. Cognitive flexibility has been found in other studies to be related to other aspects of school readiness and achievement, as well.

The researchers were not surprised that bilingual kids had lower vocabulary than monolingual kids. Experts say learning a word is related to the amount of time spent in the language. Since the time is split for bilingual kids, they tend to have lower vocabularies in both languages.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, Writer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

(Sources: https://datacenter.kidscount.org/updates/show/184-the-number-of-bilingual-kids-in-america-continues-to-rise, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23273798.2019.1678758)

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