Multilingualism and the Year Abroad: Additional factors to be considered when investigating the 'Bilingual Advantage' in young adults.
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Cognitive benefits of bilingualism have been much replicated in previous research, particularly in elements of executive control (Bialystok et al., 2009). The current study aimed to investigate these apparent advantages in a young adult sample. While research on this age group in the past has produced inconsistent results, the test battery used here (Tests of Everyday Attention, Robertson et al., 1994) has previously shown positive outcomes (e.g. Bak et al., 2008). The current study differentiated from prior research, by extending its focus to also consider two associated areas of bilingualism: multilingualism, and the Year Abroad. Monolingual and bilingual subjects were compared with particular focus being attended to executive control functions. These participants were all students who had been on a Year Abroad programme at University. This not only enabled a high level of control, but it also led to a further cognitive comparison being possible between monolingual students who had and had not been on a Year Abroad, with the addition of a second monolingual group. Many of the bilingual students used also had fluency in more than 2 languages, and so finally, those with two, three and four languages were compared on cognitive function. While no bilingual advantage was elicited in this study, multilingual results demonstrated a possible cognitive peak in attentional switching for those who spoke three languages, and a decline in performance in those who spoke four. Furthermore, differences in creativity/ concept formation ability were suggested between Monolinguals who went on a year abroad and those who did not. Future work must continue to address these associated areas of bilingualism, as possible implications are of great importance. Not only are multilingualism and migration important areas to consider as control factors in bilingual research, but if positive results were replicated in future, it could suggest that there are ways of enhancing cognition in young adults. Educationally, it would support the encouragement of bilingualism and multilingualism at all ages.