This is a review of the articles, Tweets, Facebook posts and more which went out this week in and around our Multilingual Living universe. Thank you everyone for sharing your tips, tweets, emails and more with me! Were it not for you, this post wouldn’t even be here!
Bilingual Brain Research
This was the week of bilingual brain research! The popular media channels were full of articles about the benefits of both raising children in more than one language as well as starting up a language no matter how old you are!
- Want to avoid dementia for as long as possible? Speak more than one language!
- Want your children to have the best chance as possible to have a native accent? Raise them bilingually when they are young!
- Want your baby to pick up your language? Make sure they experience the language from humans, not DVDs or iPhone apps! Wait until your children are older to use multimedia!
If you are interested in this research, then check out the following links (note that some are different articles about the same research):
- Infants Raised in Bilingual Environments Can Distinguish Unfamiliar Languages: “Infants raised in households where Spanish and Catalan are spoken can discriminate between English and French just by watching people speak, even though they have never been exposed to these new languages before, according to University of British Columbia psychologist Janet Werker.”
- Bilingual babies cue into languages: “Babies living in bilingual homes get a perceptual boost by 8 months of age that may set the stage for more resilient thinking later in life…”
- The power of learning a second language: look to the caudate: “Right now, scientists think that people who are bilingual use processing in their major language circuit to monitor and to control their FIRST language, so it doesn’t butt in on their second (or third, or fourth). We know that some people are better at learning a second language than others. But what makes them different?”
- Learning a Second Language Protects Against Alzheimer’s: This article discusses Prof. Bialystok’s research which has been around for many years but is finally getting some real attention: “Bilingualism is protecting older adults, even after Alzheimer’s disease is beginning to affect cognitive function.”
- 2 Languages Make Your Brain Buff: Another article about Prof. Bialystok’s research: “So what’s going on? One theory is that language learning is an example of ‘cognitive reserve.’ It something that keeps the mind active in the same way as puzzles and games do, and works toward compensating for the build-up of dementia-causing pathology in the brain, Bialystok said.”
- Technology can not replace human interaction: “It turns out that when certain specific and identical information is presented to an infant from a computer instead of from another human being, the child absorbs NOTHING from the machine, but when that information comes from a human being, the child has the incredible capacity to comprehend language completely foreign to them.”
- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies: This is an excellent TED Talk but you need to make sure that you understand something very essential: when Patricia Kuhl uses the term “language” she is referring to “speech perception,” which means the degree to which we pick up and retain sounds. She is not talking about the whole spectrum of elements that go into language learning as a whole. Unfortunately, this talk has created a lot of confusion whereby popular media is claiming that language learning ends at age seven! The chart she shows in the talk is referring to how well we can pick up a native accent, not how well we can learn to understand and use a language.
- Being Multilingual Helps with Multitasking: “…it turns out that bilingual children and adults perform better when it comes to multitasking and focusing on important information. That’s because the other languages are always present in the background. So the multilingual is always making choices in selecting the appropriate language for a given situation.”
Where Were Your Parents Born?
Some of my favorite “conversations” on the Multilingual Living Facebook page are those where we have the chance to share a bit about our personal lives (or in this case, our parents!). Wow, read this fascinating list about where our parents were born and then share your own if you haven’t already!
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