Neuroscience is shedding light on controversial issues regarding ESL, such as the case of bilingualism. Until recently, it was a common belief amongst parents and some educators that exposing children to learning a second language from early ages, especially in bilingual systems that intend to increase the amount of exposure to the foreign language, may cause some negative effects, like delay in the development of the mother tongue or even affect intellectual growth.
Nevertheless, new research on the promising field of neuroscience gives evidence of the contrary; becoming bilingual may provide children with a vast array of benefits. In fact, young learners in a bilingual environment seem to develop the ability to concentrate to a greater extent than monolingual ones. Undoubtedly, concentration is a sign of a well-structured memory system, in which children find it easier to make connections and retrieve words and expressions from memory.
From a cognitive point of view, the functionality of the brain becomes more “fluent”, getting children to a better understanding of environmental changes and development of multiple tasking abilities, since they can switch from a task to a different one following similar mechanisms to change from one language to another. Moreover, this “sharpening” of the brain helps distinguishing between relevant and uninteresting information
On the other hand, we cannot dismiss the advantages of bilinguals when it comes to culture, social diversity and inclusion. Indeed, handling two languages broadens children´s perception in different ways: it increases cultural awareness, being conscious of different customs and cultural heritage. At the same time, bilingualism promotes cultural interchange and social promotion
Recently, research has given evidence that bilingual adults are endowed with denser gray matter, particularly in the left hemisphere, where most of the communicative skills are controlled. In other words, there is a positive and significant altering of the brain in bilingual individuals, especially if the process starts at early stages, when the brain´s plasticity seems to be at its peak.