Kids exposed to multiple languages become better communicators

New York: Just hearing more than one language spoken at home increases the chances of your kid becoming a much better communicator, says a new study.

The children do not even have to be bilingual themselves; it is the exposure to more than one language that is the key for building effective social communication skills, the study noted.

“Children in multilingual environments have extensive social practice in monitoring who speaks what to whom, and observing the social patterns and allegiances that are formed based on language usage,” explained Katherine Kinzler, associate professor of psychology at University of Chicago.

Effective communication requires the ability to take others’ perspectives and the researchers have discovered that children from multilingual environments are better at interpreting a speaker’s meaning than children who are exposed only to their native tongue.

“These early socio-linguistic experiences could hone children’s skills at taking other people’s perspectives and provide them tools for effective communication,” Kinzler noted.

The researchers had 72 four- to six-year-old children participate in a social communication task. In a test, the researchers found that the monolingual children were not as good at understanding the adult’s intended meaning. But mere exposure to another language improved children’s ability to understand the adult’s perspective.

The study was published online in the journal Psychological Science.

}