Research participants wanted: German-English bilingual adults

Researchers are looking for native German speakers with a high command of English to take part in an ultrasound study. [Read more…]

Research participants wanted: Italian-English bilinguals

Scientists working on the EU funded AThEME project are looking to recruit Italian-English bilingual adults for their research into how people process multiple languages. [Read more…]

Research participants wanted: Dutch-English bilingual families living in Edinburgh

Researchers studying child language development in Edinburgh are looking for families raising their children in Dutch and English to participate in their new study.

Study background

We are a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Radboud University in the Netherlands. We are conducting a joint research project on bilingual children growing up with English and Dutch. This project aims to understand how patterns of exposure influence language development in children with two languages in their environment.

Children growing up with two languages are usually stronger in one language than the other. This is called language dominance. This is perfectly normal and often a consequence of the circumstances under which the child has contact with the languages in question.

In this project, we’re interested in finding out how to measure language dominance, to what extent patterns of language dominance are indeed related to the circumstances under which children acquire their two languages, and, more generally, how much contact a child needs with two languages in order to learn them both successfully.

Participant requirements

We are looking for children who are aged between 2 years and 4 years 11 months old, hear Dutch from one or both parents/caregivers, and have normal hearing and no known language impairment.

What’s involved?

  • Two sessions at home or at the University of Edinburgh Developmental lab (7 George Square). One session will take place in English with an English-speaking researcher and one session will take place in Dutch with a Dutch-speaking researcher.
  • Children will participate in a number of language ‘games’ with a research assistant (approximately 30 mins).
  • We will also video-record a 30-minute interaction between the child and parent playing together.
  • The Dutch-speaking parent will have a brief chat with the research assistant about the child’s language background, exposure and use (between 20 and 30 minutes; this could be arranged on a separate occasion, if preferred).
  • All results will be kept anonymous and treated confidentially. Video recordings will only be accessible to project members.
  • The study has received ethical approval from the University of Edinburgh ethics committee.

How to participate?

For further information or to sign up, please email Dr Barbora Skarabela or call the researchers on 0131 6504020.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Short-term language learning aids mental agility

Mental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, suggests a new study by Bilingualism Matters researchers.

Students aged 18 – 78 were tested on their attention levels before and after a one-week intensive Gaelic course on the Isle of Skye. Researchers compared these results with those of people who completed a one week course that did not involve learning a new language, and with a group who did not complete any course.

At the end of the week, participants on the language course performed significantly better than those who did not take any course. This improvement was found for learners of all ages, from 18 to 78 years. There was no difference between those who took a non-language course and those who took no course.

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice. Nine months after the initial course, all those who had practised five hours or more per week improved from their baseline performance. [Read more…]

Skye is the limit – or, the power of mad ideas

Dr Thomas Bak Thomas H Bak is a reader in Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to his work with Bilingualism Matters, he is a member of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing & Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) and the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences (CCBS).

Have you ever had an idea that seemed to you great but scarily mad, something that really excited you but you didn’t dare to share even with your closest friends? Well, that’s how I felt two years ago, when it suddenly crossed my mind that we could test attention in people attending a one-week Gaelic course on the Isle of Skye. The idea did not come out of nothing: by then, we had already analysed the data from a study subsequently published in Cognition [1]. There we found that first year students of modern languages and of other humanities (English literature, history etc) performed equally well in a test of attentional switching at the beginning of their studies. However, by the end of the fourth year the language students, by then quite fluent in their chosen language, outperformed their colleagues from other faculties. [Read more…]

Who wants to be a multilingual? Bilingualism Matters at the Science Festival

Antonella Sorace and Thomas Bak prepare for their event at the Edinburgh International Science FestivalBilingualism matters researchers Dr Thomas Bak and Professor Antonella Sorace were joined by stand up comic Susan Morrison to present a sell-out show at this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The audience gathered in the Summerhall anatomy theatre to dissect their language general knowledge – from 6 month babies to the onset of dementia, via Eurovision and Esperanto. As well as a fiendishly difficult quiz, the evening including research summaries from Dr Bak and Professor Sorace, and wide-ranging audience Q & A (including computer languages, the Scottish education system, children who code switch or mix languages in a sentence, and film subtitles).

Read more about why Dr Bak thinks this type of public engagement event is so important: Science festival interview with Thomas Bak

Thomas Bak on BBC Radio Scotland

Listen again to Dr Thomas Bak discussing bilingualism and ageing on BBC Radio Scotland:

New funded project on multilingualism

We are delighted to announce that Bilingualism Matters deputy director Dr Thomas Bak is Co-Investigator on a major new project on multilingualism.

The four year project, “Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS)”, will seek to understand multilingualism through a range of interdisciplinary research themes – from literature, film and culture, to diversity and social cohesion. Dr Thomas Bak will lead a strand on cognition, health and well-being. The researchers will cover languages taught as part of a modern languages curriculum in the UK (e.g. French, German, Mandarin, Spanish), European minority languages (e.g. Catalan, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Ukrainian), and community languages (e.g. Cantonese, Polish, Punjabi).

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their Open World Research Initiative which aims to raise the profile and visibility of Modern Languages and the crucial role they play in society.

More information:
Find out more about the AHRC-funded Open World Research Initiative, including other funded projects: Open World Research Initiative

Prof. Antonella Sorace discusses Sardinian language and education

Professor Antonella Sorace was recently interviewed by Italian newspaper L’Unione Sarda on the topic of Sardinian, a minority regional language spoken on the island of Sardinia. She explores the misconception that learning Sardinian will be detrimental to children’s education (where Italian is the dominant language).

Read a copy of the article (Italian language):Il bilinguismo? Fa bene al cervello

STV news discuss language learning and dementia

Scots living with dementia are being taught Spanish to help keep their minds active. The Lingo Flamingo project is based on research by the University of Edinburgh which shows learning a foreign language, even later in life, can help improve brain function.