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15 September 2023

Alice's Blog: Effect of bilingualism on executive function


Hello! I'm Alice Jewell and I've just finished year 13 at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr. I enjoyed being one of the Coleg's School Ambassadors this year! In a few weeks I'll be going to Cardiff University to study Psychology!

As young Welsh people, we make up 36% of the UK's bilingual population. As well as opening doors for the future, increase employability and increase cultural awareness our bilingualism also offer us an Executive function is a set of cognitive skills that guide learning and behavior by modifying behavior to make a goal more or less likely to be achieved. This is what allows us to memorize information, plan and complete tasks. Therefore, bilingualism can lead to a more academically efficient student!

Here are 4 executive functions where bilingual students can excel.


In university life, students need to balance a number of different responsibilities; attending lectures, socialising, cooking, part-time jobs etc. Fortunately for bilingual students, the practice of interlanguage exchange results in a reduction in the cost of changing a task. That is, a bilingual person will likely flexibly exchange between various mental sets in order to adapt quickly and efficiently to different situations.


Memory in action that allows us to hold information in our mind for a short period of time and process it. E.g. verbal work memory, which is our ability to remember information that includes written or spoken words, can help us remember information we have learned in a class during an exam.  Higher bilingual proficiency is associated with improved working memory because bilingual people need to process and manage two languages synchronously.



Preventive control is the ability to prevent stimuli that is not efficient for reaching our light, e.g. preventive control isused to prevent the urge to get on our phones when reviewing for an exam. Researchers suggest that this cognitive skill is a strength for bilingual people because when one language is spoken, the other language is suppressed.


This is the executive function that allows us to swap between thinking about two different concepts and thinking about several concepts at the same time. i.e. we use cognitive flexibility to assess the same situation from multiple perspectives by changing the way we think. Cognitive flexibility is key for problem-solving skills. Bilingual people are more likely to be part of two different cultures, and these culturally diverse insights lead to improved cognitive flexibility.

Choosing a bilingual degree course can certainly allow you to continue to benefit from the bilingual cognitive advantage that is key to academic success.