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Are Bilingual Kids More Accepting of Others?

Are Bilingual Kids More Accepting of Others?Obviously, raising a bilingual child has several advantages. But does learning a second language help a child be more open-minded?

New research from Concordia University shows that, like monolingual children, bilingual children prefer to interact with those who speak their mother tongue with a native accent rather than with peers with a foreign accent.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology and builds on earlier research showing that children who speak one language prefer to interact with those who share their native accent.

Authors and psychologists Drs. Krista Byers-Heinlein and Diane Poulin-Dubois initially thought that bilingual children would prove more open-minded than their unilingual peers. The results, however, show that they too prefer exchanges with “accent-free” speakers.

As part of the study, 44 Montreal-area children between the ages of five and six were shown two faces on a computer screen.

Audio recordings were played for each face; one read a phrase in the child’s native accent, while another read the same phrase in a foreign accent. Researchers deliberately chose a foreign accent that was unfamiliar to any of the children and varied associations between faces and voices.

Child participants were asked to point to the faces they would prefer to have as a friend. Most chose faces that corresponded with their native accent.

So why are bilingual children biased against foreign accents? According to Byers-Heinlein, this may be related to children’s preference for familiarity.

“Kids tend to prefer to interact with people who are like them, and might perceive an accent as the mark of an outsider,” she said.

This study has implications for parents. Since children lack the self-awareness to remind themselves that accent is a superficial measure of character, parents should be more direct in teaching their kids about accents.

“We show biases early on, so it might be necessary to educate all kids, regardless of their linguistic background, about what an accent is and how it doesn’t reflect anything about people other than the fact that they are not speaking their native language,” said Byers-Heinlein.

Source: Concordia University

Are Bilingual Kids More Accepting of Others?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Are Bilingual Kids More Accepting of Others?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/07/are-bilingual-kids-more-accepting-of-others/66799.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.