Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to new research.
The University of Strathclyde studied primary school pupils who spoke English or Italian – half of whom also spoke Gaelic or Sardinian – and found that bilingual children were significantly more successful in the tasks set for them.
Gaelic-speaking children were, in turn, more successful than the Sardinian speakers.
The differences were linked to the mental alertness required to switch between languages, which could develop skills useful in other types of thinking.
The further advantage for Gaelic-speaking children may have been due to the formal teaching of the language and its extensive literature.
Dr Fraser Lauchlan, an honorary lecturer at the University of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health, led the research which was conducted with colleagues at University of Cagliari in Sardinia.
He said: "Bilingualism is now largely seen as being beneficial to children but there remains a view that it can be confusing, and so potentially detrimental to them.
"Our study has found it can have benefits, not only in language but in arithmetic, problem solving and enabling children to think creatively."