A recent study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences purports that “turning off one language required activity in the cognitive control areas, but turning on the second language required little to no effort.” The study was conducted with 21 American Sign Language (ASL) volunteers who were filmed while they looked at an image and then named it in both English and sign language simultaneously, “as special equipment measured their brain activity.” The study also revealed that “adding on the dominant language didn’t require more exertion, even when participants had to use two languages at the same time,” which underlines that turning “off” a language requires more cognitive effort.
The researchers of the study conclude that “[this] research, as well as previous evidence, indicates that the cognitive control that's needed to speak more than one language could train our brains to become more efficient.”
The TWIN-CS Network recognizes the many cognitive benefits dual language education, and subsequent bilingualism, has for our students, but it is fascinating to learn that these benefits may stem from alternative places than previously thought.
Let us know what you think below!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher