Italian speakers needed for research – October 2018

Benefits of language learning – on BBC Radio 5 Live

People are questioning why they should bother to learn a language when apps like Google Translate can do all the work for them. Antonella Sorace was interviewed by BBC Radio 5 Live recently (Friday 17th August 2018) to give her expert opinion on the benefits of language learning in this technological age. Her interview is from the 1 hour 55 minute mark and will be available for four weeks. If you are unable to access the interview, here are just a few of the points she made in the interview.

Language learning is actually very, very good for the brain, this is what research shows. Language learning opens the mind in more than one way, and not just because it makes people aware of other cultures, […] but because it can bring specific linguistic and mental benefits.

For example from a linguistic point of view, learning another language actually facilitates an understanding of how all languages work and this means not only that people who know another language are better language learners […] but they have a better understanding of their native language, English in this country, so investing in languages actually benefits English as well.

And then from a mental, or cognitive point of view, having more than one language means, for example, that […] children can understand from an earlier age that people can have different perspectives and different points of view.

Euskaldun: Language and the Basque Identity

Growing up in the Basque Country, everyone is acutely aware of languages. Whether you speak Basque or not, whether you’re enrolled in Basque medium education or Spanish medium education, whether you choose to talk to your children in Basque or Spanish, or both, there are many decisions involving language that one has to take from early on. From big life decisions such as your children’s schooling to small everyday choices: do you greet in Spanish or Basque when you walk into a shop? That depends. [Read more…]

Are Refugee Languages Welcome? The Critical Role of Refugee Languages in Integration

Refugee languages are often viewed as an obstacle to integration. For refugees, however, they provide a source of continuity at a time of great upheaval and disruption, and can play a key supporting role in learning the new country’s language. For the host country, the languages that refugees bring with them are a rich and untapped resource.

As part of Refugee Festival Scotland 2018 in June, Bilingualism Matters was delighted to present an expert talk by Professor Antonella Sorace on the value of bilingualism, video testimonials from refugee learners, an overview of the ‘Moving Languages’ app from Dr Katerina Strani, followed by questions, discussions and time for networking.

We’re currently putting together a short event summary document which will posted here shortly.


Bilingualism Matters @ Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Have your linguistic preconceptions challenged at two shows from Bilingualism Matters as part of the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival!

Monolinguals, Where Are You?
Antonella Sorace 

Is anyone truly monolingual anymore? Knowing dialects, learning languages at school, and hearing migrant speakers make everybody ‘bilingual’ to some extent. This means that the mother tongue changes, in completely natural and predictable ways. It also means that people may not be as bad at learning languages as they often think they are. Join Professor Antonella Sorace of Bilingualism Matters (The University of Edinburgh) to discover what the extinction of monolingualism could be doing to your brain – and why it matters.

Wed 8th Aug 20:10, £10/8
Sun 19th Aug 13:30, £9/£7

Ditch the Classroom; Speak in Tongues!
Thomas Bak

Everybody believes that education is good: the more, the better. But what if the benefits of education are mainly due to having learned different languages? Shouldn’t we just concentrate on learning them? In a rapidly changing world in which factual knowledge becomes quickly out-of-date, aren’t languages the ultimate transferable skill, improving the way in which we can learn and understand new things? Whether you learn one of the big languages of culture, politics and business or one of the little known minority ones, it will not only open a new world for you but also train your brain.

Mon 13th Aug 13:30, £9/£7
Thu 16th Aug 20:10, £10/8

The shows are part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2018 (debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe) at New Town Theatre (venue 7) and are presented by columnist and comedian Susan Morrison.

‘Talking Black in America’

We were delighted to have a visit a couple of weeks ago from Bilingualism Matters Penn State‘s Frances Blanchette. Her visit gave us the opportunity to link with Edinburgh University Linguistic’s Society for a screening and discussion of the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Talking Black in America’.

Talking Black in America follows the unique circumstances of the descendants of American slaves and their incredible impact on American life and language. Speech varieties from the African American community reflect the imprint of African language systems, the influences of regional British and Southern American dialects, and the creativity and resilience of people living through oppression, segregation and the fight for equality. Filmed across the United States, Talking Black in America is a startling revelation of language as legacy, identity and triumph over adversity. With Reverend Jeremiah Wright, DJ Nabs, Professor Griff, Quest M.C.O.D.Y., Dahlia the Poet, Nicky Sunshine and many others.

Read more about this fascinating documentary on the Talking Black in America website.

AThEME publication on Scottish Gaelic and English bilinguals

The AThEME project (Advancing the European Multilingual Experience) is now in its final year. A recent publication from the team in Edinburgh is based on research investigating how speaking both Scottish Gaelic and English influences the way bilingual speakers process and use certain aspects of grammar (i.e. sentence structures) in their languages.

Since speaking different languages influences language processing in different ways, understanding minority languages helps us preserve a greater range of ways of thinking about the world, and gives us access to a unique Gaelic-English perspective. This publication is important in drawing focus to Scottish Gaelic and helping us to better understand how Gaelic-English bilinguals store and process their two languages.

Shared representation of passives across Scottish Gaelic and English: evidence from structural priming‘ (Timea Kutasi, Ellise Suffill, Catriona L. Gibb, Antonella Sorace, Martin J. Pickering, Holly P. Branigan) in Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, May 2018


‘It feels right for us’ – experiences of a multilingual family

Post by Susanne Obenaus, SLP & multilingual mother

As a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), I always felt confident in advising multilingual parents on how to include all their languages into the family’s everyday life. I followed official guidelines, performed standardized tests and handed out leaflets describing multilingual upbringing of children.

And then we had our children – raised trilingual – and my perception changed. There is a lot more to multilingual families and life than we professionals are aware of. For instance, there are cultural differences (imagine a punctual Austrian faced with Chilean time management), values and traditions we ourselves have been brought up with (like who will bring the Christmas presents: Santa or Christkind), religious beliefs and of course different parenting models.

At first we did great, according to the books. When we stuck to OPOL (one-person-one-language) rigorously, we got lots of positive comments from my colleagues on how well we followed this method. Some time later, we moved to the UK and a second child had joined our journey; suddenly our language management went berserk. We started to mix languages, OPOL was not on our radar any more. I found myself being affected by language attrition (a decline in native language proficiency), not having a lot of German speakers around me any more. Whenever I was lost for German words I would fill the gaps with any other language that came into my mind.

When my son told me “Mama, du musst wirklich dein aleman practisen”(“Mommy, you should really practice your German!”  where ‘aleman’ is the Spanish word for German, and ‘practisen’ is from the English word ‘to practice’ but conjugated as you would in German), I felt guilty. Had we messed up, was this what I had always warned multilingual parents about? I struggled with juggling two languages, whereas my husband stuck to Spanish. We had to rethink our language usage as a family. We decided to stick to our native languages at home but would switch to the family language as soon as everybody was in the same room.

This is our way, and it feels right for us. Does it always work out? No! There are times we mix languages, either for fun or for practical purposes. Our language switching also gives my children space and freedom for metalanguage discussions like: Why do Spanish people use a tongue-tip /r/ and why doesn’t it matter how to produce an /r/ in German? Is there an equivalent for the word “Verschlimmbesserung”? (No, there isn’t.) My children became very aware of any foreign languages they hear, learning new words from my husband’s colleagues at the university and even sharing some words of their native languages with other children at nursery. My son’s desire is to learn Mandarin, just for the sake of speaking all 3 of the most-spoken-languages in the world (and to become a famous football player, but that’s not the topic).

I am glad that there is more of a public discussion around the myths surrounding the topic of multilingualism, and multilingual families and professionals connect through these discussions. I am certain that some of the debates generated in this context will help me to improve the treatment of my young patients and avoid missed and mistaken identities in the field of speech language therapy. The more we talk about it, the more people will become aware, including professionals working with multilingual families.

Has my personal experience changed or influenced my work as an SLP? It certainly has made me realize that patient history and a multilingual profile are not getting enough attention. We focus on things like standardized tests and their outcome, the patient’s medical history etc. but the importance of details like language usage in the family, social values of languages and cultural standpoints are often overlooked as significant sources of information for our work with multilingual families.



New website for Bilingualism Matters

Bilingualism Matters is currently looking for proposals to help us build a brand new website. We’re accepting proposals until 5pm on Friday 20th July 2018. Full details can be found here.


Research participants required for online study about learning languages


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:

Thank you so much!

The ANACOR research team (Universidad de Granada)