IT’S AUGUST, and time to reheat an old story, as most sensible journalists are on holiday (as I will be next week). Today the New York Times reports a trend in families seeking bilingual nannies. They reported on this same trend in 2006, with specific reference to Chinese nannies.
Parents think kids get a benefit from bilingualism, and they’re probably right. But this article does mention some of the costs I hadn’t seen mentioned before: word retrieval is said by Ellen Bialystock, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, to be milliseconds slower in bilingual kids than in monolingual ones. Overall vocabulary in the first language tends to be somewhat smaller (though overall vocabulary in both languages combined is of course greater). “It doesn’t make kids smarter,” says Ms Bialystock, though there are clear cognitive “developments”, some good, some less so.