Exposure To Two Languages Carries Far-Reaching Benefits From this article at ScienceDaily, you can follow links to many other articles on bilingualism and language learning, some of which I'll also include below.
People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. And their bilingual advantage persists even when the new language they study is completely different from the languages they already know. ... And they believe the bilingual advantage is likely to generalize beyond word learning to other kinds of language learning, including learning new words in one's own language and a very basic ability to maintain verbal information. ... Previous research already indicates that individuals who have formally studied two or more languages as adults more easily acquire a new language than monolinguals. New research even indicates that the onset of Alzheimer's disease in bilinguals is, on average, delayed by four years compared to monolinguals. ... The Northwestern researchers chose to study bilinguals who learned a second language at an early age and in a non-classroom study to avoid suggestions that their subjects simply were exceptionally talented or motivated foreign language learners.
Bilingual Babies: The Roots of Bilingualism in Newborns It's never too early.
Children who hear two languages regularly in utero can not only recognize both languages after birth, but can distinguish one from the other.
An important part of language development is the ability to pay attention to native speech sounds to guide word learning. For example, English learners expect that the nonsense words "bih" and "dih" refer to different concepts because "b" and "d" are different consonant categories in English. ... [B]ilingual infants failed to notice the minimal change in the object's name until 20 months of age, whereas monolingual infants noticed the change at 17 months. ... This later use of relevant language sounds (such as consonants) to direct word learning is due to the increased demands of learning two languages, the researchers suggest. Ignoring the consonant detail in a new word may be an adaptive tool used by bilingual infants in learning new words. Outside the laboratory, there is little cost to overlooking some of the consonant detail in new words, as there are few similar-sounding words in infants' early vocabularies. By paying less attention to the detailed sound information in the word, bilingual infants can devote more cognitive resources to making the links between words and objects. ... Extending this approach to word learning for a few months longer than monolinguals may help bilinguals "keep up" with their peers. Indeed, previous research has shown that bilinguals and monolinguals achieve language-learning milestones (such as speaking their first word) at similar ages and have vocabularies of similar sizes when words from both languages are taken into account.
Northwestern University researchers have found that even before infants begin to speak, words play an important role in their cognition. For 3-month-old infants, words influence performance in a cognitive task in a way that goes beyond the influence of other kinds of sounds, including musical tones. ... Three-month-old infants were shown a series of pictures of fish that were paired with words or beeps. ... Then infants were shown a picture of a new fish and a dinosaur side-by-side as the researchers measured how long they looked at each picture. If the infants formed the category, they would look longer at one picture than the other. The results, say the authors, were striking. The researchers found that although infants who heard in the word and tone groups saw exactly the same pictures for exactly the same amount of time, those who heard words formed the category fish; those who heard tones did not.
Use It Or Lose It? Study Suggests The Brain Can Remember A 'Forgotten' Language Give your child the gift of multiple language exposure, even if you think he'll never use it.
Many of us learn a foreign language when we are young, but in some cases, exposure to that language is brief and we never get to hear or practice it subsequently. Our subjective impression is often that the neglected language completely fades away from our memory. But does “use it or lose it” apply to foreign languages? Although it may seem we have absolutely no memory of the neglected language, new research suggests this “forgotten” language may be more deeply engraved in our minds than we realize. ... [E]xposing young children to foreign languages, even if they do not continue to speak them, can have a lasting impact on speech perception. The authors conclude, “Even if the language is forgotten (or feels this way) after many years of disuse, leftover traces of the early exposure can manifest themselves as an improved ability to relearn the language.”
Bilingual Children More Likely To Stutter The news isn't all good.
Children who are bilingual before the age of 5 are significantly more likely to stutter and to find it harder to lose their impediment, than children who speak only one language before this age, suggests new research.
There's much more at that site, which I found more addictive than YouTube. For example, Russian Readers Learn To Read More Accurately And Faster. Must...Stop...Now....