Does degree of bilingualism influence executive functioning (i.e. cognitive processes including attention and working memory) in children, and, if so, is this effect sustained over time? That is exactly what researchers from the Fryske Akademy, the University of Amsterdam, Leiden University and Utrecht University attempted to find out in this new study focusing on Frisian-Dutch* bilingual children. Researchers had 120 Frisian-Dutch bilingual children (5- and 6-year-olds) perform two attention and two working memory tasks. These tests were then repeated on two more occasions.

The results of this study show that degree of bilingualism – defined in terms of language balance – has a positive effect on the children’s executive functioning. However, the effect was temporary and limited to selective attention.

 

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*Frisian, or West Frisian as it is referred to outside of the Netherlands, is a regional minority language in the Netherlands. It is the second official language of the Dutch province of Fryslân and, as such, must be taught in Frisian primary schools for at least one hour a week.