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Are Bilinguals Smarter Than Monolinguals

Because of this, there is a debate to decide whether the next generation of children should be exposed to a Bilingual education. This has led to research into whether Bilingual education slows the learning of literacy and numeracy (Barnett, Yarosz, Thomas, Jung, & Blanco, 2007). Research has also looked at specific enhancements (Goetz, 2003; Kovacs, 2009) and downsides (Kaushanskaya & Marian, 2007) to being Bilingual. This essay reviews the evidence from Literature to determine whether Bilinguals are smarter than Monolinguals.

There is a current debate as to whether Monolingual or Bilingual education is a better approach to produce smarter students.

Specifically this debate looks at whether Bilingual education hinders the development of literacy and numeracy. Barnett et al. (2007) reported that statistically there was no hindrance to literacy and numeracy in 3 to 4-year-old English-Spanish Bilinguals compared to English Monolinguals (p. 288). They also reported that the Bilingual education produced significant increases in Spanish vocabulary (Barnett et al. , 2007, p. 277).

This suggests that Bilingual education produces more knowledgeable and hence smarter students.

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Studies also found that Bilinguals have enhanced reasoning capabilities (Goetz, 2003; Kovacs, 2009). Kovacs, (2009) found that 3-year-old Romanian-Hungarian Bilinguals performed significantly better than Romanian Monolingual children in several different reasoning tasks (p. 48). The increased capacity to reason which Bilinguals experience is likely to produce superior educational outcomes. However, not all studies show that being Bilingual is advantageous. Kaushanskaya and Marian (2007) found hat Russian-English Bilinguals were sensitive to the phonology of Russian language (p. 140). This means that when these Russian-English Bilinguals come across a new word in English, they are less likely to be able to understand its meaning.

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This phonological ability is commonly used in testing intelligence quotient (IQ) (Williams, McIntosh, Dixon, Newton, & Youman, 2010). IQ has been shown to only have a partial effect in predicting educational success (Alloway & Alloway, 2010). Hence, although this phonetic ability is useful, it does not necessarily measure smartness.

In conclusion, current Literature suggests that Bilinguals may be smarter than Monolinguals. Through specialised education research has shown that Bilinguals are more knowledgeable without sacrifice to the quality of literacy and numeracy (Barnett et al. , 2007). Research has also shown that Bilinguals have enhanced reasoning ability (Goetz, 2003; Kovacs, 2009). In contrast, they may also suffer from interference to their phonology from knowing several languages (Kaushanskaya & Marian, 2007). This means that they may have difficulty in discerning meaning from unknown words.

However, this is not a measure of smartness but rather of IQ. Although Bilinguals may be smarter than Monolinguals when considering the current Literature, to be conclusive, further research should be completed, to ascertain the successfulness of Bilingual students in comparison to Monolingual students, in higher level education.


  1. Alloway, T. P. , & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 106(1), 20-29. doi: 10. 1016/j. jecp. 2009. 11. 003
  2. Barac, R. & Bialystok, E. (2012). Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education. Child Development, 83(2), 413-422. doi: 10. 1111/j. 1467-8624. 2011. 01707. x
  3. Barnett, W. S. , Yarosz, D. J. , Thomas, J. , Jung, K. , & Blanco, D. (2007). Two-way and monolingual English immersion in preschool education: An experimental comparison. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22(3), 277-293. doi: 10. 1016/j. ecresq. 2007. 03. 003
  4. Goetz, P. J. (2003). The effects of bilingualism on theory of mind development. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 6(1), 1-15. doi: 10. 1017/S1366728903001007
  5. Hatt, B. (2007). Street Smarts vs. Book Smarts: The Figured World of Smartness in the Lives of Marginalized, Urban Youth. The Urban Review, 39(2), 145-166. doi: 10. 1007/s11256-007-0047-9
  6. Kaushanskaya, M. , & Marian, V. (2007). Bilingual Language Processing and Interference in Bilinguals: Evidence From Eye Tracking and Picture Naming. Language Learning, 57(1), 119-163. doi: 10. 1111/j. 1467-9922. 2007. 00401.
  7. Kovacs, A. M. (2009). Early bilingualism enhances mechanisms of false-belief reasoning. Developmental Science, 12(1), 48-54. doi: 10. 1111/j. 1467-7687. 2008. 00742. x
  8. Rubio-Fernandez, P. , & Glucksberg, S. (2012). Reasoning About Other People’s Beliefs: Bilinguals Have an Advantage. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38(1), 211-217. doi: 10. 1037/a0025162
  9. Williams, T. H. , McIntosh, D. E. , Dixon, F. , Newton, J. H. , & Youman, E. (2010). A confirmatory factor analysis of the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales with a high-achieving sample. Psychology in the Schools, 47(10), 1071-1083. doi: 10. 1002/pits. 20525

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Are Bilinguals Smarter Than Monolinguals. (2018, Oct 31). Retrieved from

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