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Several theorists have come up with various propositions in an attempt to illustrate the interrelationship between bilingualism and cognitive ability. The most known one out of these theories is the code and switching theory by Pearl and Lambert (1962). These theorists argued that the possibility to switch linguistic codes while performing a cognitive task gives a bilingual child a unique and faster ability to understand and the ability to develop faster (Teipelke, 2009).

Another theorist, who made an attempt to explain the interrelation between bilingualism and cognitive ability, is Vygotsky. His theory argues that linguistic skills revealed in bilingual learners are based on their ability to control different aspects of language processing, and it can be easily applied and transmitted to other areas of study, apart from linguistics. He also argues that since there is a direct connection between the linguistic skills of an individual and other aspects of social and psychological processes of development, the bilingual mind has the ability to develop faster than the monolingual one and generate a higher academic and intellectual ability (Teipelke, 2009).

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Theorists of bilingualism arguing that it has a cognitive advantage have a number of weaknesses. For instance, they tend to ignore other circumstances that are likely to affect children’s performance, such as a learning environment, access to learning materials and the attitude of learners. Their approach tends to over-exaggerate bilingualism, as if it were the only determinant in the learning process. Furthermore, it does not explain other cases, when monolingual learners have performed better than their bilingual counterparts, and does not account for multilingualism in relation to the cognitive ability.


Bilingualism has both perceived benefits and limitations. However, the success of a bilingual or monolingual child depends on which aspects teachers, parents and peers strengthen. Assumptions that bilingualism is the only cognitive determinant in children should be avoided. Instead, alongside other factors, a balanced approach should be considered. With this in place, cognitive benefits of bilingualism are likely to be realized far beyond its disadvantages.a

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