How does early education play a role in how we perceive other people and cultures? Could language immersion change the way we think?
Preschoolers who learn a second language like Spanish could be more culturally tolerant than those who only speak one language, according to research. Experts believe bilingual children are more accepting of other children who are physically different from them.
Here’s what the science says: Children in language-immersion programs assume that an individual’s psychological traits arise from experience rather than innate capabilities.
Language Learning May Reduce Biases
Krista Byers-Heinlein, a psychology professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and Bianca Garcia, an undergrad at the college, tested 48 bilingual and monolingual five-and-six-year-olds.
- The bilingual children were more likely to think experience and education influence human behavior.
- The monolingual children were more likely to think the opposite. For them, human behavior is innate.
For the monolingual preschoolers, human beings are just born to behave in a particular way. They ‘are who they are,’ and they can’t change it.
“Children’s systematic errors are really interesting to psychologists because they help us understand the process of development,” says Byers-Heinlein. “Our results provide a striking demonstration that everyday experience in one domain — language learning — can alter children’s beliefs about a wide range of domains, reducing children’s essentialist biases.”
Recommended reading: Why Preschoolers Benefit the Most From Language Immersion
Early Second Language Education Promotes Acceptance of Diversity
This study has culturally significant implications because adults who have strong “essentialist” beliefs are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes and believe stereotypes.
“It’s possible that early second language education could be used to promote the acceptance of human social and physical diversity,” adds Byers-Heinlein.
Other research suggests a correlation between bilingualism and cultural tolerance. One study concluded that bilingual students might be more accepting of people with atypical accents and those who pronounce words differently than the general population.
While we need further research on this topic, Spanish language immersion could foster more tolerant, receptive human beings. And that’s definitely what the world needs right now.
KSS Immersion Schools specialize in language immersion programs for children aged 2-6 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Looking for a social distancing-compliant Spanish language immersion program? Find out more here!