Monday, October 20, 2014

Dual Immersion Enhances Attention.

The benefit of dual immersion in education has come up here before; the Prospero blog on is the reason that I again return to the subject.  Earlier studies pointed to the benefit of bilingual education by noting enhanced executive function and delayed mental decline; but new research has special relevance for the screen-time enhanced, short attention span generation we all seem to be raising.

Roberto Filippi led a team that investigated the ability of bilinguals -- not those with a modest ability in a foreign language that is rarely employed, but in those who are required to use the language frequently in daily life -- to avoid distraction when concentrating on speech.  The study assessed listening comprehension while interfering conversations, first in English (understood by all subjects), and then in Greek (understood by none), were played at the same time.  The bilinguals exceeded the controls in both measures, supporting the hypothesis of the researchers that switching languages constantly exercises the mind; Prospero compares it to Crossfit for the brain.

This topic came up for David Brooks in the New York Times about four months ago, in his column "The Art of Focus."  Brooks suggested we're all losing the attention "war," living distracted lives, unable to focus on what we want to or should focus on.  Brooks cited research showing that two-thirds of the subjects in a comprehensive study of white collar professionals reported they do not have the ability to focus on one thing at a time at work. For the concerned parent, this is a strong argument that the impact of a dual immersion education, as our students move through their academic and professional careers, may stretch far beyond the obvious power it grants to communicate in more than one language ...