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 In a rapidly changing world in which factual knowledge becomes quickly out-of-date, aren’t languages the ultimate transferable skill, improving the way in which we can learn and understand new things?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…]

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

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. [Read more…]

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.