The influence of collaborative language learning on cognitive control in unbalanced multilingual migrant children

Martha Robinson, Antonella Sorace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, (N62) 5- to 6-year-old English monolingual and unbalancedmultilingual children attending public primary school education in Scotland became involved in collaborative Narrative Format (Taeschner, 2005) modern language activities in Spanish, both at school and at home. These activities were redesigned and adapted to serve as a quasi-experimental tool to provide a highly structured and intense linguistic input. The main purpose was to explore whether cognitive advantages previously found in balanced bilinguals and second-language-learning monolingual children involved in language immersion programmes could be extended to different types of beginning language learners in a non-immersion context. Depending on the monolingual vs bilingual ratios of children in the classroom, we distinguished between homogeneous groups (characterised by a ratio of 95% of first-language English-language monolinguals) and heterogeneous groups (children from both Scottish and migrant homes in roughly equal proportions). Using a standard task of early cognitive control, we found not only that unbalanced multilinguals perform above chance but also that there was a developing trend of enhanced performance for monolinguals learning languages in the heterogeneous groups. This suggests that not only the length of exposure and intensity of input but also the social classroom environment where children develop their language skills may also play an important role in the effects of bilingualism on executive functions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-272
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number1
Early online date5 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • unbalanced bilingualism
  • input
  • cognitive development
  • non-immersion language education


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