Volunteering with Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh

Post by Miranda Garralda Wong, BM Edinburgh Volunteer

Student societies are an integral part of the university experience because they bring like-minded individuals together and foster a sense of community in what might be considered a foreign, new place for many. It is one of the first things many undergraduate students consider when they arrive, as they attend society fairs and visit stalls lined up from A to Z. I myself have tried out my fair share of societies after going through this exact process. However, it was only much later during the onset of my third year when I found the right group for me.

At the time, Bilingualism Matters’ main headquarters was situated on the ground floor of the Dugald Stewart Building at the University of Edinburgh. I had heard about the research dissemination group in my Linguistics lectures and had walked past the huge printed logo many times on my way to my class. The iconic logo probably did it for me to be honest (good job, marketing and design), but there was still a lot I did not know about BM.

Along with two friends who studied linguistics, I showed an interest in volunteering by sending an email. We were invited in for individual interviews with Christy and Kat, the centre administrator and research and outreach coordinator of BM Edinburgh. To this day I still recall how welcomed I felt during my interview, as I bonded with my interviewers over the nuances of living in a multilingual home. I left the office feeling as though I had finally found the right community, even though it was not exactly a ‘student society’. The sign-up process involved several stages of training and familiarisation with the history and motivations of BM, and soon enough, my friends and I were placed in action – BM’s first Edinburgh Multilingual Stories Festival was to be held at Assembly Roxy in a matter of weeks.

Assembly’s venues are gorgeous, and this one was a 19th century church that had been converted into a three-story space for art, performance and all sorts of events. At the festival, we helped to set up the venue, ushered audiences into their seats for language-related shows and events, eagerly shared BM’s incentives with visitors and admired the building we were in when we had the chance.

I quickly got to know other volunteers during events such as these, meeting PhD students specialising in bilingualism or professors who were going to be teaching me First and Second Language Acquisition in the upcoming year. After getting to know the group, I was invited to branch meetings, where I was introduced to programme directors and respected faculty with whom BM partnered within and outside of Edinburgh. I began to take up more volunteering roles in content production for social media accounts, proofreading and writing blog posts (such as this one that I am writing now), and helping out generally whenever I was available with other departments, such as BM’s upcoming podcast ‘Much Language, Such Speak’. There were informal socials too, which gave us plenty of opportunities to meet with familiar faces within the branch, as well as visiting speakers and researchers who we all wanted to welcome and get to know better.

As I graduate from Edinburgh this summer, I look back on my years with BM with gratitude and many fond memories. I am glad to have been able to find a home outside of home with such a tight-knit and kind group of linguists and language nerds, many of whom would become my mentors and good friends.

Miranda volunteered at Bilingualism Matters for two years, before graduating in 2020 with an undergraduate MA in English Language and Literature from the school of PPLS.

A Language Learner’s Guide to Lockdown

By Talia Bagnall

We are living in strange and scary times.  The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every part of the world and every part of our lives, so it’s no wonder that we’re struggling to adjust.  It certainly doesn’t help when celebrities, influencers, or Susan-next-door tells us they’re using the time off to become fluent in Norwegian.  Between working or studying from home, looking after children, checking up on neighbours, searching for loo roll, watching the news, and general worrying, most of us don’t have the time nor the desire to pick up a textbook.

It’s important to know that we don’t have to “use” this time at all – staying at home and looking after our loved ones is enough.  That being said, if you are beginning to get bored of the TV or you’re missing your conversation class, learning a language from home can be a welcome distraction and a fun way to pass the time – no textbook needed.   

[Read more…]

OASIS database

OASIS is a publicly available database of accessible summaries of research articles in the fields of language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism. OASIS summaries are a single page only and are written in non-technical language. There are currently around 300 summaries online, searchable by topic.

Bilingualism Matters plans to work with OASIS to encourage researchers to contribute to this valuable resource bringing language research results to everyone.

Find out more on their website at: https://oasis-database.org/ and sign up for regular alerts from the OASIS team.

Learning Foreign Languages (Nearly) Naturally

This article is part of the international bloggers event “Learning foreign languages (nearly) naturally”, organised by the blog ‘Le Français illustré’ (French language illustrated).

As a French creative practitioner based in Scotland for over 20 years and working with children ever since, I can safely say that:
– Constantly juggling between English and French languages, I am bilingual.
– I have a passion for education
– I have an equal passion for sharing my language and culture.
– And I love making things (especially puppets!)

So after qualifying in Childcare and Education, I created my own professional path and set up a bilingual puppet theatre company. The aim: introduce children to my language in the most natural way I could think of – through French talking puppets. [Read more…]

Radio Linguistika interview

Antonella Sorace was interviewed about bilingualism research, Bilingualism Matters and the EU funded project AThEME, by Radio Linguistika on the streaming service of the European Commission. Listen to the full interview:

https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/radio-linguistika-bilingual-matters

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)

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.

 

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

Bilingualism Matters Research Symposium 2018

 BMRS2018 Information (pdf) Register for Symposium

Our 2018 inaugural research symposium aims to provide an opportunity for researchers in Edinburgh and from across our 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.  

Important Dates
April 2018                       Oral presentations confirmed
4th July 2018                 Registration open (free to first 30 students; £30 others)
August 2018                   Posters confirmed
7th September 2018     Symposium (9am to 3.30pm)

Programme (draft)

Contacts
If you have any questions or require further details please contact us by email or phone.
Email: bilingualism-matters@ed.ac.uk
Phone: (44) (0)131 650 2884

 

Bilingualism Matters with ‘Little Linguists’ at Heathrow Airport

This Easter, we worked with Heathrow Airport to promote language learning for children, as part of their ‘Little Linguists’ scheme. Our Director, Professor Antonella Sorace, advised in the development of packs of fun flashcards in different languages, designed to spark an interest in language learning for the thousand of families passing through the airport over the Easter 2017 weekend. [Read more…]