10th Anniversary Celebrations – 7th September 2018

In 2018, Bilingualism Matters celebrates 10 years of public engagement activities helping people to make decisions about bilingualism and language learning based on the best available evidence. Founded in 2008 by Prof Antonella Sorace at the University of Edinburgh, it has grown from a one-person local service to an international network of over 20 branches based in 13 countries around the world.

To mark this special occasion, we organised the first Bilingualism Matters Research Symposium, which aimed to provide an opportunity for researchers in and around Edinburgh and from across the Bilingualism Matters international network to come together to share and exchange ideas on any aspect of bilingualism, with a focus on dissemination potential beyond the academic world.

Following on from the Symposium, we invited our stakeholders from the community to join us for our special 10th Anniversary Annual Event. The event was launched by the Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson, and featured a range of informative talks covering topics such as Gaelic medium education, British Sign Language, a history of Bilingualism Matters, and an overview of research into bilingualism over the last 10 years.

All the photos from both events and the full programmes are available to see at the links below.

10th Anniversary Events Facebook Photo Album  BM Research Symposium Full Programme (pdf)  BM 10th Anniversary Annual Event Full Programme (pdf)

Where Language and Identity Intersect

Post by Elie Abraham (they/them)
Composer, Sound Designer, Voice Actor,
Escape Designer, Comedian, Queer Activist

My experience with language has been quite peculiar. Imagine: I grew up as a first-generation child two to immigrant parents from different countries. They spoke to me in their native tongues, Finnish and Hebrew, but to each other in their common language, English. After a daycare teacher threatened my mother 20+ years ago with “Your child will never learn English” when picking up my younger sister, she decided to quit speaking Finnish to us. My father, a much more stubborn man, did not only refuse to stop speaking to us in his native language, Hebrew, but sent us to a private school where we would continue learning it. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]