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aries1988 : bilingual   4

The Spanish Lesson I Never Got at School

With Spanish’s endearments and ample use of the subjunctive tense and the diminutive, I have learned that to know a language is to enter into another way of being.

My father, for example, is a charming man in English, a language he has spoken fluently for a half-century. In Spanish, however, his full talents as a sardonic raconteur are on display; he’s even prone to the occasional philosophical soliloquy. My mother is a fluent English speaker, but in Spanish she’s a storyteller with a deeply romantic bent and a flair for the ironic.

For Latino immigrant children, Spanish is the key that unlocks the untranslatable wisdom of their elders, and that reveals the subtle truths in their family histories. It’s a source of self-knowledge, a form of cultural capital. They are smarter, in fact, for each bit of Spanish they keep alive in their bilingual brains. And they are more likely to see the absurdity in the rants of xenophobes and racists.
children  language  education  school  bilingual  opinion  politics  usa  espagna  family  literature  personality  brain 
november 2016 by aries1988
Bringing up babel

If you don’t speak a person’s native language, there’s always a corner of their mind you can’t quite reach. But everyone who has learned a language in adulthood knows how hard it is, with the grammar books and the flash cards, the pronunciation problems and the awkward rhythm, never quite getting to fluency.

Parents normally use one of two strategies to make sure the minority language sticks: either one parent, one language, or one language at home, the other outside.

Bilinguals hit developmental milestones at the same rate as their monolingual peers. But they are prone to errors, and their total vocabulary is divided between two languages. So they usually lag behind slightly in the vocabulary of the schooling language. When these kids get to school, many teachers, with the support of doctors unfamiliar with the research, begin telling parents to speak only the majority language with the child – and many parents give in and do so.

the fear that language diversity would interfere with nation-building. A good American speaks English. By faulty syllogism, this meant that a second language made a bad American, so educational policy set about creating a nation of monoglots.

Bialystok has found that bilinguals seem to have better executive function – the ability to plan and carry out complicated tasks.

Roberto Filippi of Anglia Ruskin University has also found that bilingual children are better at tuning out distracting spoken language in the background.

Noam Chomsky theorised that human language is a single phenomenon, with relatively trivial surface differences between languages.

different languages may force people to pay attention to things they otherwise wouldn’t – such as different levels of formality, in languages that have both a formal and an informal word for you.

In one study, bilingual children did better on a task testing theory of mind. This is the knowledge, still developing in small children, that others have minds with different contents.

Many people report their first real understanding of grammar upon learning a second language.

A little can-do American optimism, a little Danish grit in the face of life’s harsh realities. If Henry acquires both of these, we will have done our job.
language  kid  parenting  choice  bilingual  brain  danish  baby  instapaper_favs 
september 2016 by aries1988
Being Bilingual Changes the Architecture of Your Brain | WIRED
When I speak Spanish, it’s not an effortless cognitive switch. My brain needs to actively choose Spanish every time I say a word or construct a sentence. Even after years and years of speaking Spanish every day, I can often feel that work happening. It’s tiring, and switching to English can be a relief.

Every time I choose washing machine over lavadora, or vice versa, my brain gets a little stronger. Kroll thinks this constant cognitive challenge that bilinguals face may be responsible for an observed improvement in what’s called executive function, or the ability to filter out unnecessary information and make decisions.
story  bilingual  language  brain  espagna  english  research 
july 2016 by aries1988
The Bitter Fight Over the Benefits of Bilingualism

Bilinguals have lots of experience with these skills. The bilingual mind is in constant conflict, explains Ellen Bialystok from York University, one of the leading researchers in this field. For every utterance, a choice is made to focus on the target language, so there is a constant need to select. She says that this constant experience leaves its mark on the brain, strengthening the regions involved in executive function.
language  brain  mind  bilingual  research 
july 2016 by aries1988

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