Raised in Mexico City, the daughter of American parents, I grew up bilingual. Speaking another language has certainly proven to be an asset and no doubt influenced my decision to major in Comparative Literature. In my pre-university life, I excelled in math. I’ve often wondered if my bilingualism gave me an advantage in math?
A few years ago, I read a study conducted in Quebec in which children from French-speaking homes went to schools whose curriculum was taught in English and English-speaking students who went to French schools. Both groups did well in their acquired second language, but what surprised researchers was that these bilingual students did better in math than their monolingual counterparts at these schools.
The researchers concluded that bilingual students had developed strong analytical skills that facilitated understanding math concepts and solving complex word problems. The ability to think in two languages promoted higher levels of abstract thought, a crucial cognitive skill that benefits students in mathematics.
So beyond the apparent socio-cultural and economic benefits of speaking a second language, let’s not overlook the enhanced cognitive skills acquired in learning a second language.