Does Early French Immersion Work?

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Does Early French Immersion Work?



[url= the Tyee:[/url]

Does Early French Immersion Work?


A report prepared for the New Brunswick government found many French immersion students were dropping out of the program and few learned the language. The government responded with a plan to cut early immersion and focus on core French later in school, a move that has spurred an intense backlash. The province's ombudsman is investigating.

"We were surprised," said B.C. Education Minister Shirley Bond about the New Brunswick report. Her ministry will look at the 99-page study, she said, but stressed she is committed to supporting early French immersion.

"I can assure you that the provision of French immersion programs is a significant and important part of curriculum in British Columbia," she said. "Here in the province we have a growing population of families that are choosing French programs, so it's certainly not something we've contemplated."

Popular program

While French immersion may be a popular choice, and Bond said it is the only program where enrolment is growing, that doesn't necessarily mean it works.

In New Brunswick, the researchers found that of the 1,469 students who started in early French immersion in 1995 only about one in three completed the program. Fewer still, under 16 per cent, met the program's goal of having "advanced" or better language skills.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I don't think early French immersion works any better than later immersion programs. I do know that studies with serious flaws in them are used to "sell" parents on French immersion programs -- we considered it when enrolling our eldest in kindergarten. It didn't sound quite reasonable that immersion students "catch up" and are at or near the same level in English language arts by about grade 5... The problem with the sample in the study they cited for us was that it didn't correct for academically struggling students who typically drop out of the program and enter the English program to wind up struggling further with the transition to an English-speaking classroom and the emotional trauma of the failure to thrive in the immersion program. This starts, often, in grades 3 to 5. It also didn't correct for academically weaker students already in the English program, or the fact that most of the immersion kids tended to come from better-off socio-economic environments.

I've seen kids crash and burn in my daughters' school, and I've seen students in university come through the immersion program here who are no more bilingual than I am, unable to write at a university level in either language.

Philosophically, I find it troubling that French becomes the overarching focus of education -- learning French in math means you're not focusing entirely on the math, for example. It doesn't make sense that you get a well-rounded education with this method.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against learning to speak French fluently. I think that's fantastic. But I think early immersion is kind of like "new math" and some of the wackier teaching methods of the '70s that were later dropped -- interesting experiment but ultimately a bad idea.

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: Timebandit ]


I’m a product of early immersion. In jr. high (grade 8), we “merged” with the late immersion kids. The difference was in vocabulary (ours was better), which makes sense, since the early immersion kids had about 5 or 6 years up on the later immersion ones. More of the late French kids dropped out of immersion as well.

I don’t recall that the late immersion kids did any better in the English classes than the rest of us. I do know that the top students graduating from my high school split two from French (one late, one early) and one from the English program (whose first language, incidentally, was not English).

It’s true that when you are focusing on learning French in the early years, the English reading and writing will come along a little later, but it’s by and large the same process in both languages and we all caught up eventually. It helps if the parents read to their kids in English at home because it’s true that they will be reading in French at school.

Knowing two languages is better than knowing one and it is easier to learn acquire language at a young age, so if early immersion is an option for my future hypothetical kids, I will definitely put them in it. The reports I’ve read suggest that a child that struggles in French immersion will struggle in an English program as well. This makes sense to me. Math is math regardless of what language the instructions are. If you don’t get the concepts in French, chances are you won’t get them in English. My parents don’t really understand French and they were still able to explain my homework to me using my French math textbook, because numbers are numbers.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Here's the difference from my point of view. My 10 year old could be reading English at a grade 3 or 4 level at this point had we put her in French immersion, but she's reading it at a university level now. Mediocrity in two languages in exchange for excellence in one doesn't seem like that great a deal to me.

There is no evidence that early immersion produces better French speakers than later immersion. In fact, small children do not have faster language acquisition than older children or adults, although they may retain slightly better later in life. This is a common misconception. If you critically analyse what is used to support immersion, there are a lot of misconceptions and exaggerated conclusions.

My point about academically struggling students dropping out: Yes, they do struggle in the English stream as well. And then they are averaged into the English sample, but the immersion sample is not given any correction for this. Obviously, the English stream comes out looking poorer for it. The results are skewed.

And for every positive example you can come up with from your experience, I can probably come up with a negative one from mine. My issue is that we parents are being sold on stats that are badly flawed. The evidence is not there for the larger picture.

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: Timebandit ]


my son had a very solid grounding in English public school to Grade 3,
then he went straight into a small public school in France, and it worked out great; perfectly fluent within 18 months

at the time, he was 8, I thought: too late already!

but no, once you learn to read in one language, you have the skill, and hence you transfer to another language natural and may be easier overall


Of course it's all anecdotal evidence, Timebandit. Your opinion that the stats are skewed seems to be based on your own experience and observations as well. For all the products of French who can’t write a good essay at university, I’d bet the English kids are right there with them. Common problems like poor sentence structure, comma splices, subject verb agreement are the same in both languages. Chances are, if you can write a good essay in French, you can write a good essay in English.

The fact is that education is a personal choice that every parent has to make for their kids. You decide whether your child will learn a second language and what that language will be. You decide whether she will do ballet or karate, piano or the flute, soccer or hockey etc. That decision will obviously be based on the child’s abilities and interests, but I would imagine it would also be affected by the resources in your area. Maybe there is no soccer team, maybe the ballet teacher is mean. Choosing whether to enroll your children in French is similar. Different school districts are going to have varying quality in their French immersion programs.

I was reading English at a high school level and doing math at a grade 6 level in my third grade of French immersion. La dee da. (on a side note, just because a kid can read at a university level, doesn’t mean they understand what they’re reading). By the time I got to university, I was reading French [b]and[/b] English at a university level. Reading above one’s grade level is impressive and all, but if I could trade the fact that I read Dickens when I was 9 for an extra language, I’d do it in a heart beat.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture


(on a side note, just because a kid can read at a university level, doesn’t mean they understand what they’re reading).

It does when she blows the doors off the comprehension component of the testing. But snarking aside, that is neither her nor there.


I was reading English at a high school level and doing math at a grade 6 level in my third grade of French immersion. La dee da. (on a side note, just because a kid can read at a university level, doesn’t mean they understand what they’re reading). By the time I got to university, I was reading French and English at a university level. Reading above one’s grade level is impressive and all, but if I could trade the fact that I read Dickens when I was 9 for an extra language, I’d do it in a heart beat.

It's nice that you did well academically. You're obviously very bright. But that changes nothing in regard to my argument about the larger picture and does not change the fact that the studies have flaws in the way they have gathered the information they draw their conclusions from. Logically, they are dealing with a false premise. Your experience fits in as an exception, not the rule.

There is a flawed assumption in your statement, and it's another common one. The assumption is that by eschewing [i]early[/i] immersion, the child will not acquire that second language, ever, at all. It's presented as a binary choice, but in reality it is not. People are perfectly capable of acquiring a second language later in school or even in adulthood.

That aside, you have to ask yourself which language your child is most likely to live in. Chances are, it will be English if you live outside Quebec. Not that we shouldn't all be fluent, or as fluent as possible. But even my Fransaskois brother in law has lived most of his life in English.

I decided the stats were skewed by looking at the studies the stats were drawn from. I'd had little experience with immersion and some of the claims seemed counter-intuitive, so I dug deeper and saw some problems. Yes, my conclusion has been confirmed by later observation, but my original decision was based on the larger picture rather than anecdotal evidence. Beyond personal preference, we parents are being given information that is incorrect and asked to base a big decision that could have a deleterious effect on our children on it. Not every child necessarily, but a significant enough number that the majority of students (in this region, anyway) have dropped out of the program by high school. This seems to me to be a poor foundation to base a system on.

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: Timebandit ]

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

There is a serious disconnect in the study as I read it: between drop-out rates and linguistic skills.

I can tell you that my knowledge of immersion schooling is that early immersion provides strong second language skills; much stronger than that provided by late immersion or intensive introduction.

However, drop-out rates are high, because of the extremely limited course selection within immersion programs. If you want to become anything other than a teacher or translator, chances are that the secondary school courses you require are only available in English.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Okay, LTJ, got something to back that up? Because the immersion people at our school board didn't, and I have yet to come across anything that solidly supports better language skills than later acquisition. I know it's the prevalent theory, but that doesn't mean we should accept it on face value.


I think in New Brunswick there had always been a prejudice against early French Immersion for some of the reasons that are noted in the various reports out of that province -- most notably, that it takes many of the more competent kids (and those with the most engaged families) out of the English stream.

Add to that the complete integration of children with special needs into the English classrooms and there has been resentment (to say the least) of the "elitest" FI program.

The backlash against discontinuing early FI is vocal but I suspect there is also quiet satisfaction among those people who have resented it over the years.

That said, our son has been in French Immersion since Primary. He's been with the same kids for years -- they're in grade seven now -- and I could count on one hand the kids who have switched to English.

He's bilingual. And he reads well in both languages. He reads everything but I think there's no doubt that he enjoys reading in English more than in French.

And I honestly don't think that studying the other subjects in French rather than English was a factor in the kids being able to learn math, science etc.

So there's a little more anecdotal evidence.


[deleting, I was just being bitter and was off topic]

[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: Yibpl ]

Stephen Gordon

Yeah. When we're hiring, one of the ways we classify candidates is their French-language skills. Expressions such as 'immersion French' or 'Ottawa civil service French' sometime come up.

It's better than what I had ('Ontario high school French'), but it's not really the same thing as being bilingual.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

...but my children, after 7 years of early immersion, are truly bilingual. They successfully transferred into the French public system, where their marks are excellent (one across the board, the other in all subjects except French itself - admittedly, she is not quite the equivalent of a native speaker yet).

They did, however, have the advantage of attending one of the single track (immersion students only) schools in Toronto. The success record of these two schools would seem to recommend more of them being introduced.

Stephen Gordon

Well, that's a good sign. The caricature of an immersion student is someone who can speak French to other immersion students, but who can't understand someone whose mother tongue is French.


Okay, maybe I over-stated his ability when I said, "he's bilingual." But when we've been travelling in Quebec, he chats easily (when he's not feigning shyness) with people in hotels and restaurants and I've seen him switch back and forth between languages when talking over assignments. He seems comfortable at those levels anyway.

Stephen Gordon

Oh, I certainly don't want to minimise those achievements; I wish I'd had that sort of background. After 16 years (I moved here at the age of 30), I *still* don't consider myself bilingual. 'Functional' is the most I will claim.



Originally posted by Stephen Gordon:
[b]Well, that's a good sign. The caricature of an immersion student is someone who can speak French to other immersion students, but who can't understand someone whose mother tongue is French.[/b]

So true. That's kind of a problem with the term immersion. The only way to be truly immersed is to do what it sounds like Geneva’s kid is doing. I.e studying in France. When you are speaking Franglais, you can pretty much put say any English word with a French accent and your classmates will still understand you.

French immersion is like any other subject really, you get out of it what you put in and you’ll retain it if you use it. I excelled in high school math and physics, but don’t remember anything about what I learned and if I had to write a grade 12 physics exam today, I would probably fail. That said, it would probably come back a lot quicker than if I had to learn it fresh and I think the same goes for language.


My kids aren't in immersion because in the year they started school, our public board had exactly two francophone teachers.

I do not need my kids immersed in an impovershed form of any language, thank you very much.

So then I tried to get them into the French board but in order to be eligible, one of their parents has to have attended school in French. They wouldn't accept my grade 10 Quebec exchange program history as meeting the constitutional test.. I tried to argue Trudeau's intent but that didn't go over, natch!

Now the plan is to bring them to rural Quebec periodically, for a few months at a time, and I'm betting they'll pick up a lot that way. We're starting in two years. Meanwhile I'm looking for a French tutor, for them and as many of of their classmates as want to join in, but no luck so far.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture


Originally posted by Timebandit:
[b]Okay, LTJ, got something to back that up? Because the immersion people at our school board didn't, and I have yet to come across anything that solidly supports better language skills than later acquisition. I know it's the prevalent theory, but that doesn't mean we should accept it on face value.[/b]

[url=]See page 7 of this pdf pamphet.[/url] You'd have to download the full report (also available) to see where the original studies were done; this is just the executive summary.

Dr. Hilarius

My kids are in French immersion and I honestly have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, it's great to know another language and the discipline involved in learning it, I think contributes to overall intellectual ability. Though, I'm not so certain as to what the long term benefits of knowing French will be, unless they want to work for the federal government. In this day and age, I'd suspect that a knowledge of Spanish, Cantonese or Mandarin would probably be more helpful career-wise.

My kids DO speak very good French. Or they do, as best I can tell from my own very limited ability.

What I've heard from others, however, si that very soon after leaving the French immersion program, they tend to lose it simply because not using it regularly diminishes it. So unless they are planning to study French in university or to have a career where they use it, it's not something that they can jsut sort of keep in a mental drawer for many years, perfectly preserved until the time that they need it.

I've had to learn two new languages much later in life and it was very difficult. I have no doubt that it's easier to start them at a young age. But I've found that my second language has really diminished jsut because I don't live in that country anymore and don't get much opportunity to speak it.

Finally, I do worry about the effect that French immersion has on their abilities in other subjects, like math, etc. I do sort of wonder whether the strong focus on French means other areas aren't getting as much attention and if students from outside of French immersion tend to do better in "English" subjects when they get to high school. Anyone with older kdis ahve any thoughts on that?

Where I live (Hamilton), an additional benefit of French immersion is that class sizes do tend to be a lot smaller and a lot of the students parents tend to be more involved in their kids education.



Originally posted by Timebandit:
[b]Here's the difference from my point of view. My 10 year old could be reading English at a grade 3 or 4 level at this point had we put her in French immersion, but she's reading it at a university level now. Mediocrity in two languages in exchange for excellence in one doesn't seem like that great a deal to me.
[ 15 April 2008: Message edited by: Timebandit ][/b]

I don't have the time to pull out the studies. My experiences has taught me that children in French language schools in Ontario and in French immersion, have a tendency to excel in more courses.

I struggled with English until about grade 7 and grade 8, when I had a really good English teacher, whose methods worked for me.

After that there was no looking back. Am I a strong writer? Not particularly, but I don’t really care for reading and writing the way those who excel at it do.

For the years the French program was at my old high school, the top achieving students were almost always those out of the French stream. Furthermore, many of the top students from around the city had a tendency to go my high school.

I really don’t buy the argument that concentrating on one language is really advantageous. Being made to read and write and practice ones skills will make for better learners and better students.


My evidence is completely anecdotal, but here goes.

When my parents immigrated to Canada in the early 1960s, there were no French immersion schools, at least not in Toronto. One publically funded French school was, however, established in Toronto in 1965: this was not an immersion school but a French language school intended for Francophones. My mother decided it would be really cool to send her kids to school in French, so they knocked on doors and phoned people until they got a "yes", and they sent their five kids to this school.

I attended French-language grade school from kindergarten until grade eight. I learned to speak French fluently -- OK, now it's a bit rusty, but I can still have a fluent conversation (though with a grade eight vocabulary). Did it hurt my English-language skills? Not one bit. I would argue that it enhanced my ability to speak English. It certainly helped my grammar: since a French-language education is more grammar-intensive than an English-language education, I was one of the few kids in grade nine in my Anglophone high school who knew the difference between an adjective and an adverb. (You learn this stuff in French, since adjectives have to agree with the noun that they modify.)

Did I learn Math, Geography, History, etc? Sure. OK, I learned the French words for stuff like "plus" and "minus", but that was no impediment to learning the concepts. And I grant that my History education was a bit weird for an Ontarian, since our History books were published in Quebec, in the 60s. So I learned about "les colons" and about "les Seigneuries", and somehow I had the impression that Montcalme was good and honourable and that Wolfe was a scoundrel; and I got the impression that the battle of Plains of Abraham was one of History's darkest days.

All in all, I emerged intellectually utterly enriched by the experience of learning Math, History, Science etc. entirely in French. If I ever have kids, I have every intention of sending them to French-language school (not French immersion but French language).

I do not have personal experience of French immersion schools (since mine was not an immersion school), but I know a large number of people who send their kids to immersion schools. The kids all have remarkably good French language skills. They do not have native proficiency, but their skills are still remarkable. The worries that some have expressed here have not come to be in the cases with which I am familiar. Of course, my experience and my friends' experience with their kids might not be statistically relevant, especially given that we are not representative of the population at large.

[ 17 April 2008: Message edited by: torontoprofessor ]

Skinny Dipper

Based on my experience substituting in Early French Immersion classes (as a poorly functioning French speaker), I will write that the students are functional to fluent at their appropriate grade levels. I also notice that they accept learning French even if they don't always like to speak it 100 percent of the time in class. At least when I am there, they can switch to English.

My problem with students learning French has to do with the majority of students who take 40 minutes per day Core French classes. These are the ones who start in grade-four (in Ontario) and drop out after grade-nine. If they do complete grade-twelve French, they are unlikely to be functional in French. This is a waste of resources if those students spend nine years learning French and can't have an unscripted basic conversation in French. These Core French students would benefit from some form of Intensive (half day or half year) or Extended French (min. 80 minutes per day).

Groups like the Canadian Parents for French need to advocate for the students in Core French classes. These students need opportunities outside the class to practice their French at summer language camps or on exchanges for example. Forty minutes per day in the classroom is not enough.

Finally, if French Immersion schools are seen as elitist, then school boards need to create other schools that specialize in other areas. These could be Mandarin Immersion, sports, arts, or science focused schools. Give reasons why families would want their children to attend other schools. Every school needs to be unique. We don't need generic box-store schools. I have seen many of them. They dull the minds of students and lack a sense of community. They are just warehouses for learning, but not for living.

Makwa Makwa's picture

My daughter joined a late french immersion program, and is now bilingual enough to pass the exams for a bilingual employment stream with Air Canada, so it seemed to work well enough for her.

[ 20 April 2008: Message edited by: Makwa ]

Wilf Day


Originally posted by Makwa:
[b]My daughter joined a late french immerssion program, and is now bilingual enough to pass the exams for a bilingual employment stream with Air Canada, so it seemed to work well enough for her.[/b]

Anyone investigating this issue should check the latest results from Ontario schools.[url=] Some of them are here.[/url] We've been experiencing different immersion models since the early 1970s.

But there are many models. "Late immersion" or "middle immersion" (sometimes used interchangebly) could mean starting in Grade 6 with only 50% French, or could mean starting in Grade 5 with 70% French. Sounds nit-picky, but the second generally works a lot better than the first.


As a lurking babbler and I know this is purely anecdotal, but figured I'd post anyway since this is an interesting dicussion.

I went to school where early immersion students were merged with late immersion and core French kids twice. The early immersion students consistently academically bested both the other two groups, in essentially all subjects. Their English speaking and writing skills were, in general, superior to both groups.

Surprisingly, of all the graduating students at the end of high school, early immersioners were at the top of the pack, almost exlucisvely.

However, enrollment in the early immersion stream plummetted from about 65 at the start to about 12 by Grade 12. Is it possible that their academic 'excellence' was simply a reflection of the fact that the brightest students were the only ones who could 'survive' while still achieving in both subjects? I don't know.

In regards to French, early immersioners' spoken French and understanding of spoken French was far advanced when compared to the late immersion students. Written French, however, was similar between both groups. My wife is a late immersion starter, the spoken French and ability to understand oral French of her and her peers is very basic.

However, this is all very anecdotal and likely has a lot to do with the individuals, schools, and cities it took place in. Just thought I'd post.


Oops forgot to add, the early immersioners French was probably not fluent enough to call them truly bilingual, but enough to get by. However, it was enough of a basis to give them fluency after 2-3 months in an all French environment (in my case, northern Ontario. Though my french is very rusty now.)

Therefore, not a sparkling endorsement of the system, but not a hideous one either. All depends on your priorities and your child's interest, I guess.

JaneyCanuck JaneyCanuck's picture

I had the same experience as ToProf - only it was in NB and the province was just on the cusp of both duality in the school system PLUS early immersion. I see many people discussing NB but they have no idea how our system functions and that it is significantly different than how even some immersion programs work in other provinces.

I am all for bilingual education - the more languages we know, the better and I do have a problem with parents entering their children in a particular education program merely for a job. Education is about more than that. This is not a vocational issue- it is a cultural and EDUCATIONAL one!!!!

I was surprised to discover that in many jurisdictions, there are either lotteries or it is first come, first served in terms of who is allowed to enter immersion. In NB, anyone can enter - and in northern NB, it starts in Kindergarten, a point I might add the authors of this report did not even examine. I wonder if they even know?

But while as an Anglophone (Tho I think of myself as Irish and Jewish and not an Anglo so much), I was at first a major proponent of French Immersion. I even believed duality would help our students - and I have been a school trustee (God Help me) when I lived in NB and headed a study on French Immersion. I thought some of the more ardent parents who opposed it were well, bigots and I hate to say I was less objective then. It IS possible some of them were but that does not lessen the fact they may have been correct about immersion and I was wrong.

Simply stated, the program is not working well. It DOES work well where I come from - which is northern NB. Why? There, children have access to French friends, television, activities- all events plus hearing the language spoken with a good accent daily - which is not the case in southern NB. I was shocked to meet some French Immersion teachers in Saint John whose accent had many Anglicisms and whose own accent was wanting. I know accent is not everything but in learning a language, it IS important. Then again, given my upbringing, my mind is more in tune with how French is supposed to sound and it sounds differently in Paquetville than it does in Bathurst. So, while some French folks speak with an accent, I guess it is OK if Anglos do as well, Still, I wish teachers spoke it well. That for some reason bothered me and I hate to admit it. They were good and well meaning teachers but the children they taught never learn the correct pronunciation of some important words and there are words in French, just as in English or Spanish that can be easily confused.

So, while there may be some flaws in the report - I do think the system needs to be fixed. And fast and soon! I have worked with special needs students and it irks me to no end that we have virtually created a class based system - research now shows that the better off a stude4nt's family is, the more likely they will enter immersion. Thus, we have streaming and one system for those university bound and high achievers (I have judged too many science fairs across Canada to believe in the word "gifted" and I jumped two grades in school, not because I was gifted. I was a high achiever (I liked school) and came from a family that placed a premium on education. So, we are placing students who may already dislike school in larger classes with fewer resources and spending more money on a program that teaches small classes to children who would do well in almost any class.
That part of what Immersion has caused disturbs me immensely. We have what one person called "classroom immersion". Do the children speak French in the school yard? Are there school based activities that involve all students in French or English (Usually , no - though in northern NB, sometimes yes) There is even a nickname conjured up for kids in the core English program by the children in what is perceived to be the better program. I won't repeat it but that alone should send chills down the spine of any parent wanting gto raise egalitarian and compassionate souls.

As for TorontoProf, I too learned the Canadian anthem in French first (I still prefer it and it is not sexist) and thought for a year anyway that our Premier was called a Prime Minister - just as s/he is in French. There are other examples but those too come to mind, lol

So, I am anxious to see how this all works. I think if it is done well and all children are treated equally, the new plan WILL work.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

[url=]Another reason to promote French Immersion.[/url]

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture
Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

...and yet another:


Cell phones have been shown to be more detrimental to driver performance than other distractions, such as tuning a radio or talking to passengers while on the move. This isn’t because of the physical problem of trying to steer and talk at the same time, however. Rather it’s because drivers are paying more attention to the content of telephone conversations and less to road conditions around them, says Jason Telner, a York PhD student in psychology. Telner is researching the relationship between bilingualism, cell phone usage while driving, and driver performance.

Telner notes that researchers such as York psychologist Ellen Bialystok (previous story) have shown that bilingual people appear to possess cognitive and performance advantages in attention-demanding, multi-tasking laboratory situations compared to monolinguals. Bialystok’s findings attributed this performance advantage to their more developed cognitive executive functions which they use to manage two languages simultaneously.

But until Telner’s experiments, no one had tested whether bilinguals might also have increased immunity to driving performance impairments because of their cognitive advantages. In other words, can bilinguals more safely talk on the phone while driving, compared to monolinguals?

To test whether bilingual people are better drivers while using cell phones, Telner conducted a series of experiments at York’s Driving Lab under the direction of David Wiesenthal, a professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. Telner tested 35 monolinguals and 47 bilinguals. Their performance was evaluated in a virtual driving environment using a computer driving-simulation program which measured a series of safety benchmarks including speed and lane deviation. The experiment consisted of driving conditions without a cell phone, and driving conditions with a hands-free cell phone where participants were engaged in simulated conversations in English.

“We found bilingual participants were better able to handle the extra task of speaking over a cell phone when driving, compared to monolinguals, relative to their own driving performance without a cell phone,” says Telner. The bilinguals’ level of safe driving did decline, but not nearly as much.

The research, Telner adds, is only the beginning of investigating the role bilingualism plays in minimizing the driving impairments caused by distraction from speaking over a cell phone while driving. The increased attention capacity – and ability to better manage cognitive resources in situations with multiple tasks – may be the means by which bilinguals are able to handle the extra task of speaking on a cell phone when driving, he suggests.

[url= for entire article. [/url](Loads slowly.)

[ 17 May 2008: Message edited by: Lard Tunderin' Jeezus ]