Working 1992) These systems will not be working


Working memory is a
temporary storage of information even before it is stored in the short-term
memory.  Even though it is a short-lived
memory, it involves many subcomponents which makes it a complicated process.  The three components of
working memory are central executive, the phonological loop and the
visuospatial sketchpad.  The central
executive is the most fundamental system and is mainly in-charge of producing
speech, putting words into sentences and making sense of it by working with
information from either short-term or long-term memory.  The phonological loop is the key to mastering
a second language as speech retained information is being reiterated in a
person’s mind.  Its main function is to
maintain information that were said during a speech.  Information related to speech that is
retained in the short-term memory being repeated over and over in the brain
will result in familiarizing and eventually obtaining enough knowledge to acquire
the language that is being taught.  The
visuospatial sketchpad is the ability to remember images or imagery of
information that were being shown such as colour or movement of objects or
people. (Baddeley, A. 1992) These systems will not be working if the central
executive is not functioning. 

Influence
on Working Memory

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Young children who are bilingual are said to have better inhibitory
control over attention. (Bialystok,
E. 2001) This means that these children can divert their attention without
being affected emotionally.  The fact
that they have control over what they want to pay attention can either speed up
or slow down the language that they are acquiring.  Inhibition is a component of executive
functions whereby a person shows self-control and limits oneself to something
in order to benefit or prevent facing consequences of it.  An example in context of young children aged
three to six years old will be being able to keep their hands to themselves
when the teacher is teaching or reading a storybook.  There are children who are overly active and
keeps on having physical contact with their peers such as tapping their
shoulder if they are siting behind their peers. 
 Also, children who have typical
executive functions that are developing, it brings a more positive social life
and similar aspects. 

How
bilingualism affects Working Memory

     Being
a child bilingual will mean that the child had acquired two or more
languages.  For example, the child may
speak Chinese at home, English in school and is taking a language class in
Japanese, the child will have to switch and respond accordingly to the language
that is spoken to him.  This switch of
being able to understand different languages does not mean that the other
languages learnt are being forgotten. 
All these three languages that the child had acquired will be stored in
the long-term memory and can be strengthened through repetition or more
exposure to using the language itself. 
The child is able to switch between these three languages because information
that is being learnt before are being retained in the long-term memory whereby information
is stored for an extended period of time. 
According to the Atkinson and Shiffrin model of memory storage, there
are three memory storage.  It is first
placed in the sensory memory, if enough attention is focused on remembering it,
it will be stored in the short-term memory and if plenty of rehearsals of
information had been done in the mind, it will be stored in the long-term
memory. (Weiten, W. 2013)
When an external stimulus stimulates a memory, it will then be retrieved from
the long-term memory.  That is how
powerful the working memory is because it involves many complicated
process.  Thus, the more languages a
child acquire, the more the complicated process the mind will have to go
through which strengthens their memory. 

Methods
to measure Working Memory

     There are
different methods to measure different types of working memory.  All the below methods that will be mentioned
are high complex memory span tasks to find out the extent of development of
children’s working memory.  To measure
central executive system, children are to count backwards in terms of numbers,
completing sentences and recalling them. 
For the phonological loop component, they are to do a non-word
repetition test to see how much they can remember within a short period of
time.  For this test, someone will read
out non-word repetitions and children are to listen carefully and try to remember
as many words as possible.  The act of
repeating words or sentences requires them to recall what had been said.  In order to do so, they must be able to find
a link between the words based on what is in their long-term memory.  (Alloway, T. P., Gathercole, S. E., Willis,
C., & Adams, A. 2004)

Bilingualism
has an advantage in Working Memory performance

    
As mentioned above, working memory is closely related to the executive
functions such as inhibition is the ability to have self-control,
self-discipline and self-regulation.  It
has been found that young bilingual children perform better than monolingual
children in test that are beyond just reading or writing.  This is due to a higher extensive usage of
executive functions such as being able to focus on task at hand.  Even though both monolingual and bilingual
children are able to tell what is grammatically wrong, but bilingual children
are more likely to be able to ignore the meaning of words in the sentence and
instead, focus on the sentence’s structure and grammar instead.  It requires a lot of effort for these
bilingual children to divert the attention away from the meaning of words and
focusing on the structure of sentence instead. 
This is a very important requirement in order to learn languages.  As all children have a first language, when
they learn the second or more, they must be able to focus on the rules of
grammar or sentence structure in that language and not associate with their
first language or any languages that have been learnt.  Adding on, bilingual children are found to be
more efficient in problem solving and develops this ability quicker than
monolingual children.  As said above,
executive functions are largely used in learning a new language.  And also, executive functions are highly
correlated with the theory of mind which is the ability to think from another
person’s perspective.  This is linked to
problem solving because in order to solve a problem, they first have to find
out what is the underlying reason.  To
find the underlying reason, children will have to think of the possibilities of
what had caused the problem and find possible ways to solve the problem.  Continuing, mastering a language requires the
use of the phonological loop whereby words that are retained in the memory is
dependent on the similarities of phonological sounds.  The more similar words sound, the harder it
is to remember them. 

     Using
Korean-English and Spanish-English young bilinguals as an example, the
importance of learning either language first will greatly impact their usage
and understanding of the language itself due to differences in sentence
structuring and rules in grammar and syllable’s onsets and rimes.  From the second language that they learn
onwards, it is all based off of their first language’s skills which had
developed.  Using Korean-English and
Spanish-English speaking children, have faster reaction to stimuli in a task
that was carried out to test their reactivity to surroundings. (Prior, A., & MacWhinney, B. 2010).  The amount of times that the second language
is used also matters as it may mean either more or less usage of the executive
functions.  They are able to react faster
than monolinguals due to their ability to inhibit and focus on the task more
than as compared to monolinguals.

    
On the other hand, Korean-English young bilinguals will have an easier time
in learning the language as the syllables are very different and the words are
very different too.  This difference will
dissociate any chances of children relating English words to Korean words,
which speeds up their pace of learning the language. Korean is in hangul while
English is just alphabets, therefore, children will not be confused as there
are very little words that sound similar. 
This causes them to better control their attention on learning the
consonants of English and writing it out as they practice inhibitory control. (Kim, Y. 2008)

     The frequency of usage of the second
language matters as well.  If it is not
used often enough, lesser processing of information will be done in the Broca’s
area where language is produced. 
(Bialystok, E. 2008)

Conclusion

Working memory involves complex processes
which involves large cognitive functioning system such as the executive
functioning and theory of the mind which are proved to be better than
monolinguals when compared with bilingual young children.  Children who are bilingual performs better in
school and they have better problem-solving skills which develops faster than
monolinguals.  In order to ensure that
there are no biases involved, teachers or even parents, can use the methods
which are mentioned above to compare and contrast between the capabilities of
young children who are monolingual and bilingual.  Even though bilingual children are said to be
better cognitively, however, monolingual children can train their minds to be
as good as bilingual children too.  It
can be done so through repetition of information and inhibitory control when
trying to complete a task.  Children
should use their second language often enough otherwise it will slowly fade
away in their long-term memory. 

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