Bilingual Effects on Cognitive and Linguistic Development: Role of Language, Cultural Background, and Education


  • This research was supported by Grant R01HD052523 from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to Ellen Bialystok. The color-shape task switching was programmed by Dr. Nicholas Cepeda at York University, Canada.

concerning this article should be addressed to Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3. Electronic mail may be sent to


A total of 104 six-year-old children belonging to 4 groups (English monolinguals, Chinese-English bilinguals, French-English bilinguals, Spanish-English bilinguals) were compared on 3 verbal tasks and 1 nonverbal executive control task to examine the generality of the bilingual effects on development. Bilingual groups differed in degree of similarity between languages, cultural background, and language of schooling. On the executive control task, all bilingual groups performed similarly and exceeded monolinguals; on the language tasks the best performance was achieved by bilingual children whose language of instruction was the same as the language of testing and whose languages had more overlap. Thus, executive control outcomes for bilingual children are general but performance on verbal tasks is specific to factors in the bilingual experience.