The bilingual brain calculates arithmetic differently depending on the language

People can intuitively recognise small numbers up to four; however, when calculating, they depend on the assistance of language. This presents a fascinating research question: How do multilingual people solve arithmetical tasks in different languages of which they have fluency? The question will is important, as an increasingly globalised job market and accelerated migration means that increasing numbers of people seek work and study outside of their native linguistic areas.

This question was investigated by a research team led by Dr Amandine Van Rinsveld and Professor Dr Christine Schiltz at the University of Luxembourg. For the purpose of the study, the researchers recruited subjects with Luxembourgish as their mother tongue, who successfully completed their schooling in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and continued their academic studies in francophone universities in Belgium. Thus, the study subjects mastered both the German and French languages perfectly. As Luxembourger students, they took maths classes in primary schools in German and then in secondary schools in French.