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Advantage of early bilingualism

Trainee Achievements

Advantage of early bilingualism

Common wisdom says that children raised bilingually are disadvantaged in their linguistic development relative to their monolingual counterparts. Trainee Lisa Hsin produced some of the first strong evidence that bilingual acquisition can sometimes confer an *advantage* relative to monolingual acquisition. Studying corpora of child-produced and child-directed speech, she showed that early Spanish-English bilingual learners master the syntax of English questions such as "what does the tiger say?" considerably earlier than English-only learners -- even though the corresponding Spanish questions are rather different ("what says the tiger?"). Through a new theoretical principle, she showed that properties of Spanish force bilingual learners to acquire early-on more sophisticated syntactic structures -- universal structures, shared by English -- and this dramatically speeds their mastery of English questions.