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.

 

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 In a rapidly changing world in which factual knowledge becomes quickly out-of-date, aren’t languages the ultimate transferable skill, improving the way in which we can learn and understand new things?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

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

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…]

Thomas Bak on BBC Scotland Brainwaves

I would say language could be part of a healthy lifestyle exactly like physical exercise and having a healthy balanced diet.

Our co-director Dr Thomas Bak featured this week on the BBC Radio Scotland programme ‘Brainwaves’, discussing attitudes to bilingualism and what science tells us about how it affects our brains. You can listen to the programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09pz108

And also read about his work with social enterprise Lingo Flamingo in a news feature on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-42886423

 

 

Video: Language Learning in the USA

Bilingualism Matters was delighted to be involved in the National Languages Networking meeting in Glasgow this week. The meeting was an opportunity for educators from across Scotland to explore how we can develop language teaching in our schools, with a focus on the “1 + 2” approach to language learning here in Scotland (more details on 1 + 2 are available on the SCILT website).

As part of the programme presented by Education Scotland, which included a talk by Bilingualism Matters Director Antonella Sorace on ‘Second language learning: benefits and challenges’, the co-director of our new Bilingualism Matters branch in California, Prof. Judith Kroll, recorded a special presentation on the current context for language learning in the USA. In her presentation, she introduced recent research findings on the benefits of language learning for brain development. The full presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

Bilingualism Matters International Meeting on 15 November 2017

Members of Bilingualism Matters branches from around the world came together recently in Barcelona for a meeting to discuss how we can better work together, sharing expertise and resources to empower individuals, communities and policy makers to make informed decisions about bilingualism and language learning. [Read more…]