Do Bilingual Children Develop Better Social Skills?

“Being bilingual has some obvious advantages. Learning more than one language enables new conversations and new experiences…Now, two new studies demonstrate that multilingual exposure improves not only children’s cognitive skills but also their social abilities.” K. Kinzler, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Raising bilingual children. photo- zestnzen

Raising bilingual children. photo- zestnzen

Excerpt: The Superior Social Skills of Bilinguals by Katherine Kinzler New York Times

“ One study from my developmental psychology lab… shows that multilingual children can be better at communication than monolingual children.

Language image-expatchild

Language image-expatchild

We took a group of children in the United States, ages 4 to 6, from different linguistic backgrounds, and presented them with a situation in which they had to consider someone else’s perspective to understand her meaning. For example, an adult said to the child: ‘Ooh, a small car! Can you move the small car for me?’ Children could see three cars — small, medium and large — but were in position to observe that the adult could not see the smallest car. Since the adult could see only the medium and large cars, when she said ‘small’ car, she must be referring to the child’s medium.



We found that bilingual children were better than monolingual children at this task. If you think about it, this makes intuitive sense. Interpreting someone’s utterance often requires attending not just to its content, but also to the surrounding context.

app for language learning

What does a speaker know or not know? What did she intend to convey? Children in multilingual environments have social experiences that provide routine practice in considering the perspectives of others: They have to think about who speaks which language to whom, who understands which content, and the times and places in which different languages are spoken… Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills of interpersonal understanding.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Task: Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. There are less obvious advantages of bilingualism.
  2. Experiments were conducted in collaboration with other psychologists.
  3. We took a group of children from different linguistic backgrounds.
  4. We found that bilingual children were better than monolingual children at  certain tasks.
  5. If you think about it, this makes intuitive sense.
  6. Interpreting someone’s utterance often requires practice.
  7. What does  a speaker want to convey?
  8. Children in multilingual environments have  better social experiences.
  9. Children regularly exposed to another language were also talented.
  10. All  of the children were given a standard cognitive test.

Word Map Education Oasis

Reading Comprehension

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Interestingly, we also found/find that children who worn/were effectively monolingual yet regularly exposed/expired to another language — for example, those who had grandparents who speak/spoke another language — were just as talented/talent as the bilingual children at this tusk/task. It seems that being raised in an environment in which multiply/multiple languages are spoken, rather than being bilingual per se, is the driving factor.

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. Bilingual children enjoy certain cognitive benefits.
  2. One study were from a developmental psychology lab.
  3. Multilingual children can be better at communication.


  1. In the experiment Children could see all three cars.
  2. The adult could only see the smallest car.
  3. They have to think about who speaks which language.


  1. They was just as talented as the bilingual children.
  2. In a follow-up study involved the effects on younger children.
  3. Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Main idea chart By Write Design

Main idea chart By Write Design

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

  1. Many  High schools in the U.S.  still require that students learn a second language. In your opinion is learning a second language necessary?  Explain why or why not.
  2. If you are bilingual (or multilingual) what advantages have you experienced?
  3. Are there any group members who wish to learn another language? Why?

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


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