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!
The US Government Interested in Bilingualism?
Before we get too excited about the world finally taking notice of bilingualism and its benefits, we might want to ask ourselves what the motivating factors are for all of this recent discussion in the media. It appears that the US government has a lot to do with making it a hot topic lately as reported in the article Being Bilingual: Beneficial Workout for the Brain: “Much of the research on language learning has been for the U.S. government, which wants to improve language training for intelligence analysts, diplomats, and military officers. ‘We want to make training faster, better, and cheaper,’ says Ms. Weinberg.” Knowing how the brain learns languages is key in this process.
Even MORE Bilingual Brain Research
No matter what the reasons are for the sudden interest in languages and bilingualism by the US government, once the media decides a topic is hot, it sure spreads like wildfire! What the heck, let’s go for the ride and enjoy the attention!
It is important to remember that the research on this topic has been going on for a very, very long time and will continue to go on even after the media hype has died down. As an example, Prof. Bialystok’s research with Alzhimer’s patients came out in 2007 (we reported on it in detail at the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network) yet it has taken this long for the media to spread the word to this degree.
Here are some highlights from this week (some of which is based on the same research as last week’s):
- What Bilingual Babies Reveal About the Brain: Q&A with Psychologist Janet Werker: An excellent interview with one of the bilingual infant researchers currently highlighted in the media. Note that she is emphasizing that bilingualism isn’t going to hurt anyone but it also isn’t going to make our children geniuses!
- Bilingualism good for the brain, researchers say: This Los Angeles Times article is especially interesting since bilingualism is often linked with socioeconomic discussions in southern California. “With schools focused on getting children to speak English as quickly as possible, parents who want their children to reap the benefits of being bilingual should be sure to continue speaking their native language in the one setting they can control: the home.”
- Infants raised in bilingual environments can distinguish unfamiliar languages: UBC research: “Werker has previously shown that bilingual infants can discern different native languages at four, six and eight months after birth. While monolingual babies have the ability to discern two languages at four and six months, they can no longer do so at eight months.”
- Speaking 2 languages may delay getting Alzheimer’s: “Being bilingual does nothing to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from striking. But once the disease does begin its silent attack, those years of robust executive control provide a buffer so that symptoms don’t become apparent as quickly, Bialystok said.”
- Juggling languages can build better brains: Another article about Bialystok’s work. “Once likened to a confusing tower of Babel, speaking more than one language can actually bolster brain function by serving as a mental gymnasium, according to researchers.”
- Bilingualists Better at Multitasking: “The research appears to confirm what supporters of bilingualism have long argued: that learning two languages — rather than ‘stuffing’ the brains of children with too many words — actually gives them an edge over kids who speak only English or French. Previous research has demonstrated this bilingual benefit in five- and seven-year-olds, but the Concordia study shows it starts much earlier than expected.”
- Being bilingual a good brain work-out: “… an ability to speak English, Chinese, Russian and Creole, for example, does not make a person more intelligent. ‘Bilinguals simply acquire specific types of expertise that help them attend to critical tasks and ignore irrelevant information,’ said Kroll.”
And here is some special attention and benefits to speaking more than two languages:
- Trilinguals have lower risk of cognitive impairment: “It appears speaking more than two languages has a protective effect on memory in seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime or at the time of the study, Perquin said in a statement.”
- Three is company for language ability, memory retention: Another post about the same research promoting more than two languages for brain benefits.
The thing to remember with all of this research is that it is fascinating, exciting and interesting but it shouldn’t be our only motivating factor for raising our children multilingually.
Language REFRESH 101!
While learning Spanish during Language Challenge 101, I quickly realized that there was an important language in my life that needed some serious attention: German! My children are getting older, using more complex sentences and vocabulary, and engaging in more discourse, yet my German is not getting any better! Thus, we have decided to start our next language adventure: Language REFRESH 101.
We would love to have others along for the language adventure! Please head over to the Multilingual Living Forum and sign up for Language REFRESH 101. As the saying goes, “the more the merrier”! And it will definitely be merrier and motivating to have others along for the adventure (regardless of language)! To get started, check out the first of our Language REFRESH 101 videos. And perhaps you will be inspired to create your own? That would be wonderful!
Don’t forget: If you are excited to learn a brand new language, head over to Bilingual Families Perth as they invite you to join them for their own Language Challenge 101 adventure!
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