Do young children know that people can understand more than one language?

Can infants understand that people might be able speak more than one language, and are bilingual infants more likely to understand this than a monolingual ones? These are interesting questions, because understanding that people may speak more than one language is likely to help infants adapt more easily to their linguistic environments, and help them interact more easily with other people.

Researchers at New York University and McGill University recently explored these questions by observing how bilingual and monolingual 20 month-olds reacted to communicative situations. [Read more…]

Prof Antonella Sorace sur EURadioNantes

French language radio interview on bilingualism

antonella EURadioNantes 300x298 Prof Antonella Sorace sur EURadioNantes

AThEME branch of Bilingualism Matters opens in Nantes

nantes launch poster 216x300 AThEME branch of Bilingualism Matters opens in NantesOn 27th February 2015, a new branch of Bilingualism Matters opened at the University of Nantes. The French branch is the seventh to open as part of the EU-funded AThEME project; over the next five years researchers at Nantes will be disseminating the results of this major research project around France.

The branch director, Hamida Demirdache, organised an Bilingualism-themed evening entitled “One brain, two languages: an investment for life” to launch the new initiative, with a public lecture from Edinburgh’s own Prof. Antonella Sorace. The event was also attended by Prof. Lisa Cheng of Leiden University, who is leading the AThEME project overall. Prof Cheng said: “staff at Nantes have done a brilliant and impressive job launching this new branch, and I look forward to watching it evolve alongside the AThEME project”.

As part of the launch event, Prof. Antonella Sorace also spoke to Raphaëlle Besançon from EURadioNantes about life, bilingualism, and everything… in French! Très bien! You can listen to the French language interview on the EURadioNantes website.

New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities

new scots cover New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotlands CommunitiesBilingualism Matters has been chatting to Mandy Watts from Education Scotland, who works as a Development Officer for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Part of Mandy’s job involves contributing to the “New Scots” strategy for refugees, which has been drawn up by the Scottish Government in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Scottish Refugee Council.

With the strategy recently celebrating its first year, and with the Scotland, People, Language forum just days away, we asked Mandy to tell us more about the New Scots strategy and what it means for people living in Scotland.
[Read more…]

Late language learners show improved mental agility

Learning a second language can boost cognitive performance even in late learners, suggests a new study.

Researchers from Bilingualism Matters at the University of Edinburgh tested the mental agility of almost 200 university students, divided into those who did or did not study modern languages. Results showed that the linguists showed more improvement in thinking skills than the non-linguists.

Students were asked, for example, to switch between counting upwards and downwards (to measure their attention switching abilities), or to name as many words beginning with a certain letter (to measure their verbal fluency). The results of first year students were compared with those of fourth year students, in order to measure the improvement in thinking skills that students acquired over the course of a degree. For both the language students and the monolingual humanities students, fourth year students scored significantly higher in verbal fluency than first year students, thus confirming the benefits of general learning (regardless of subject). However, the students on modern languages courses showed significantly more improvement in their ability to switch attention than their monolingual peers, suggesting an additional cognitive boost when we learn another language. [Read more…]

Give Your Child the Gift of Bilingualism

Guest post by SANTIAGO MONTERO

santiago Give Your Child the Gift of Bilingualism
Santiago is the founder and director of a language school in Washington DC. He has also worked tirelessly to integrate the fields of education and mass media in Europe and Latin America for the last fifteen years. You can read about Santiago, his methods and his school, at Spanish Tutor DC.

Not since some widely discredited studies in the nineteenth century have scientists had a bad word to say about bilingualism. On the contrary, mounting evidence suggests that bilingualism is good for us, and particularly good for our brains. From delaying the onset of Alzheimers to stimulating an increase in brain size, it seems to be now irrefutable that the acquisition of language has an extraordinary and unique role to play in shaping our body’s most enigmatic and complex organ. [Read more…]

The impact of late, non-balanced bilingualism on cognitive performance

Media reports on study by Bilingualism Matters researchers (January 2015)
Vega-Mendoza, M., West, H., Sorace, A., Bak, T.H. (2015). The impact of late, non-balanced bilingualism on cognitive performance. Cognition, 137, 40-46. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.12.008

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Slovenian branch of Bilingualism Matters opens as part of AThEME project

IMG 1478 e1418919696439 Slovenian branch of Bilingualism Matters opens as part of AThEME project

On 25th November 2014, the Slovenian branch of Bilingualism Matters (“Večjezičnost Velja”) was launched at the University of Nova Gorica as part of the AThEME project.

Welcoming addresses were given by Dr. Rok Žaucer, director of the Center for Cognitive Science of Language, prof. Dr. Mladen Franko, vice-rector of the University, Sandra Sodini, director of the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EZTS) and by Dr. Sara Andreetta, director of the new branch. Professor Sorace from the Bilingualism Matters HQ in Edinburgh gave a talk on the major facts, challenges and benefits of bilingualism. The talks were followed by a musical performance from students of the Music school of Nova Gorica.

The following day Professor Sorace held a public lecture entitled “Bilingualism: an investment for families and society” in Gorizia, on the Italian side of the border between Italy and Slovenia.

Both events were attended by an audience very interested in the topic of bilingualism! Indeed, in many cases they were bilingual themselves in Slovenian and Italian languages, due to the particular condition of living in the border between the two countries.

Life as a research student of bilingualism

I have always loved languages. In particular, I have always loved French, and I started to learn basic words and phrases during my childhood years. (Famously, my dad tried to make me say thank you in French before I got to blow out the candles on my 4th birthday cake, but before I could, my 2 year old sister came out with a tiny merci and completely stole the limelight.) I originally hail from Australia, so when we moved to the UK in 2002 I was very excited to be surrounded by so many different languages – despite the fact that Australia is home to over 200 indigenous languages, nearly 80% of the population speak only English[1]. Visiting Paris at age 12 left quite an impression on me, as I’d never been somewhere where the street signs weren’t in English. Listening to people chat on the métro with no idea what they were talking about sparked great curiosity within me. Ten years later,  I’ve ended up really quite in love with speaking French (my sister can no longer trump me) and as a postgraduate research student at the University of Edinburgh, the French language now forms a major part of my research. [Read more…]

Being able to switch between languages

When I was a 12-year old school pupil, just leaving primary school and continuing my education at a secondary school in the Netherlands, I remember the joyful anticipation of getting to learn two more foreign languages (German and French) besides the one we already started to learn in primary school (English). At the time, I assumed it was quite normal for school going pupils around the world to have to learn more than one foreign language at school. I remember it came to me as quite a shock when I found out that this is not the case for some countries in the world. [Read more…]