Research participants required for online study about learning languages

PARTICIPATE ONLINE IN A STUDY ABOUT THE LEARNING OF SPANISH AND ENGLISH

Have you ever wondered how people learn a foreign language? At the University of Granada (Spain) we are precisely investigating this. We are looking for native and non-native speakers of different languages. You can participate in any of these scenarios:

  • Learner of Spanish (with any of these mother tongues: English, German, Dutch, Greek, Japanese).
  • Learner of English (with any of these mother tongues: Spanish, German).
  • Native speaker of English.
  • Native speaker of Spanish
  • Native speaker of Japanese

In return for your participation, you will get for free the level you obtained in the grammar test (only if you participate as a learner of the language). Additionally, if you are interested, we can send you a document from the University of Granada (Spain) acknowledging your participation.

Visit our webpage to participate and for more info: www.learnercorpora.com

Thank you so much!

The ANACOR research team (Universidad de Granada)

Our World Is Colourful! A language celebration kindergarten project

Post by Eva-maria Schnelten

St. Agnes Kindergarten in my hometown of Lastrup, Germany, embarked on a 7- week project called “Our World Is Colourful” in April 2016. In the context of growing tensions on a global scale regarding refugees and migration, this project was developed to help the children within the kindergarten understand each other’s backgrounds and everything that goes with that: obvious differences like languages, but also subtle cultural differences like playing games. My mother, who runs the kindergarten, came up with the idea.

A full week of activities and learning sessions was dedicated to each of the seven nationalities present in the kindergarten: Germany, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands and Syria.  For every country, they first held a short introduction in form of a presentation, including pictures and photos of the country itself, of the country’s capital, the flag, the people, the different regions and landscapes, and cultural aspects such as food, dance or religions. In the course of each week, the children would then cook or bake typical food such as Baklava from Turkey or Poffertjes from the Netherlands, as well as do arts and crafts about the country. They would also get together in cross-group exercises to play games that the children of the respective country would then teach their peers.

Within this context, the children learned some of each country’s language through songs and books.  “Brother John”, “Bruder Jakob” or “Frere Jacques” (as it is most commonly known) was the song used in every language, to show the linguistic differences paired with a common, shared melody.

For every language, they also had a parent, sibling or speaker of the language come in to read a book. Each page of the book was read in both the new language and in German. This is where I became involved in the project. Having studied in the Netherlands, I am a speaker of Dutch. Since the Dutch children’s parents couldn’t make it, my mom asked me whether I would be able to read for the children. They were all familiar with the story beforehand, which helped them understand the foreign language even better. Every now and then, the children started laughing and shouting “I understood that word!”, or “That word sounded funny!”, which made the whole experience really enjoyable.

The following week, the next country was Syria. At the time, I was teaching German as a second language to Syrian refugee kids. Their siblings attended the kindergarten, so it seemed a good idea for my students to come and read the children’s book in Arabic. Their German was good enough to translate the book, so they had a chance to practice their German too. Both my students and the children really enjoyed it, taking turns in reading and translating, asking each other questions and answering them together. Making the children aware of a linguistic difference was probably the most challenging, since they would not understand (most of) it, but probably one of the most effective approaches to make them aware of why the bilingual children sometimes don’t know words, make mistakes or sometimes don’t even dare to say anything.

The children clearly enjoyed the project and got a lot out of it. It sparked curiosity about each other, and led to them asking other children about their families, and in general, talking a lot more about the things they were introduced to.

Multilingualism and multiculturalism in rural Germany aren’t traditionally big topics, but because of the recent developments and current political discussions, I think it is more important than ever to show that foreign cultures and languages should be not only tolerated and respected, but embraced and celebrated. This project was a perfect example to show every sceptic that we can learn a lot from children: their openness and enthusiasm to embrace differences was inspiring. Rather than feeling negative about their differences, what’s more important is making friends, learning new things and, most importantly, who gets the last piece of baklava.

©iStock.com/Rawpixel

Is there a ‘cut-off age’ for learning languages?

© iStock.com/pixelfit

By Antonella Sorace & Thomas Bak

The idea that there is a critical period for language learning has been around for a long time, at least since Eric Lenneberg’s 1967 book “Biological Foundations of Language”, which proposed that the acquisition of a first language can be successful only if children are exposed to it in early infancy. The concept was then naturally extended to second language (L2) acquisition, given the much greater variation in outcomes among adult language learners. However, conclusive evidence for the biological nature of child-adult differences and for a well-defined cut-off point has not been found.

At the University of Edinburgh, we study speakers at the very upper end of the L2 proficiency range, who can pass for native speakers at least at some levels: the very existence of these speakers shows that it is possible for adults to be very successful at learning a second language later in life. But why do we find so much more variation? There are many different factors contributing to this, including a shorter time scale and the fact that full immersion in the L2 environment can’t be taken for granted for adults in the same way as it can for children. There is evidence that multilingualism helps: the more languages are known, the easier it becomes to learn more. And recent research also shows that the brain of much older adults responds very well to the challenge of learning a new language, even if high proficiency levels are not reached.

Also, the “critical period” might be different for different aspects of language. It is difficult for an adult to learn new sounds to a level of being perceived as a “native speaker”, in fact, this is the case even within the same language in terms of dialects and local accents. In contrast, the rules of grammar can be learned later and we continue to learn new vocabulary throughout our lives, as new words emerge in all languages. Importantly, the fact that with age it might get more difficult to learn some aspects of language (as is the case with many other activities, such as engaging in sports or playing musical instruments) should not discourage us from doing it. On the contrary, learning languages might be one of the best ways of keeping our mind agile in later life!

Useful links

Here’s when it gets more difficult to learn a new language, according to science

Students should learn second language to prevent dementia in later life

Research participants needed: English – Greek bilingual children for eye tracking study

Hi! My name is Katerina! I am a PhD student at The University of Edinburgh looking for English-Greek bilingual children! If you live in Edinburgh and your child uses everyday both English and Greek, you could help!

To participate, your child MUST:

  • Be a NATIVE speaker of both ENGLISH and GREEK (from Greece)
  • Be between 5 and 9 years old
  • Have no language developmental disorders
  • Have no speech or hearing disorders
  • Have normal or corrected-to-normal vision

I would be very grateful to you if you could help me with my study.

 If you are interested in participating to the study please contact Katerina Pantoula: a.pantoula@ed.ac.uk

This project has been approved by The University of Edinburgh PPLS REC: #277-1718/2.

Edinburgh Branch Volunteer Group 2018

Members of our Refugee Working Group at last year’s Annual Event with Antonella Sorace

At the Edinburgh branch of Bilingualism Matters, we are lucky enough to have a large group of enthusiastic volunteers to help us. Many of them are post-graduate language students keen to see the messages from their research reach appropriate audiences, such as families, teachers and speech therapists. We also have academics, professionals and members of the public who all have an interest in seeing the science of bilingualism research being available in the community.

Members of the group help out at our public events, write posts for our website, help with our social media and also get involved in project work in smaller groups. Here is what some of the groups are up to this year. [Read more…]

House of Lords Visit

Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh Co-director, Dr Thomas Bak visited to the House of Lords in January to give expert advice on the health benefits of bilingualism to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages, with his colleague Diną Mehmedbegovic, with whom he has a new website called Healthy Linguistic Diet. This visit is the first time that the cognitive aspects of bilingualism have been discussed by the group. There’s a great article in Polish that you can read in its original language or translate through your browser.

Thomas also featured in a half-hour special of the BBC Radio Scotland programme Brainwaves (click to listen if you are based in the UK), discussing his research into bilingualism. This excellent interview, with science journalist Penny Latin, explores many aspects of his research and how results can and are applied within society, including in his work with Bilingualism Matters. You can find out all about language initiatives Lingo Flamingo and Yakety Yak Language Cafe, with whom Thomas collaborates, and hear details on the latest research demonstrating the benefits of languages in the human brain.
[Read more…]

Hola! Early years Spanish programme in Glasgow

In February 2018, Antonella Sorace visited Indigo Childcare in Glasgow to give a talk to parents and staff about bilingualism and language learning. They have recently launched a Spanish Programme, which is proving popular with both the children and the parents. We asked them some questions about their programme for our Spring 2018 newsletter.

  1. What are the aims of the Spanish Programme at Indigo Childcare?

At the Indigo group, we aim to offer outstanding quality of learning and play experiences for our children and families. In the geographical areas we operate in, it is particularly important that we are focused on closing the attainment gap. For our part that means ensuring we provide the highest quality of early years’ experience and exploring creative ways to strengthen the development of children. Our programme aims to: [Read more…]

Unlocking the Puzzle of Multilingualism

Project child participation leaflet

Post by Tracey Hughes

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have the right to express their views freely and for these views to be heard[1].  This may not sound particularly ground-breaking but, following tradition, adults can often find persuasive reasons for not giving children’s views their due weight.  ‘Child voice’ and child participation is often see as optional and a gift which can be bestowed upon children and young people.  In reality, it is a legal obligation which is the right of the child.  Assumptions are often made that children cannot be consulted regarding their views and experiences because they may be unable to articulate them appropriately.  In other words, in the past, research has tended to be on children, rather than with children.  I recently read an interesting comment regarding this issue, and ways to overcome participation, which concluded that if we cannot communicate effectively with children perhaps we should be questioning our own competence (rather than theirs)[2].

Research on bilingualism often focuses on the use of parental questionnaires, as a proxy for children’s experiences, or makes use of cognitive testing and standardised measures of linguistic ability.  [Read more…]

A’ cumail taic ri cloinn ann am foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig le mi-rianan cànain. An tèid agaibh air cuideachadh?

Tha pròiseact rannsachaidh ùr a’ dol an-dràsta aig Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann a tha ag amas air goireasan measaidh a chruthachadh a chuidicheas tidsearan agus leasaichean cànain is cainnt (SLTs) ann a bhith a’ tomhas na sgilean cànain aig clann a tha am Foghlam tro Mheadhan na Gàidhlig (FTMG).  ’S e bhith a’ cruthachadh goireasan a bheireas taic do chloinn le mi-rianan cànain ann am FTMG amas fad-ùine a’ phròiseact.

Bu chòir cuimhneachadh nach eil a bhith a’ cleachdadh barrachd is aon chànan le do phàiste ag adhbharachadh mi-rianan le cànan is cainnt.  Ma ’s e ’s gu bheilear a’ measadh no a’ toirt seachad cobhair do phàiste a tha dà-chànanach, tha e cudromach gun tèid sgrùdadh a dhèanamh air, agus spèis a thoirt seachad dhan dà chànan. [Read more…]

Supporting Children with Language Disorders who are in Gaelic-medium Education. Can you help?

A new research project is underway at Edinburgh University, aiming to develop materials for teachers and Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) to assess the language abilities of children who are in the early stages of Gaelic-medium primary Education (GME).    The long-term goal is to create resources to help support children who have language disorders in GME.

It is important to remember that speaking and using more than one language with your child will not cause speech or language disorders.  If a bilingual child is being assessed or treated for a speech or language disorder, both their languages should be assessed and respected. [Read more…]