Bilingual children have a dual-process mind, lower stress levels

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It has been proposed that in addition to bilingual children having an enhanced ability to process sounds, that they also use two completely separate sound systems to learn languages. In his latest studies, researcher Skott Freedman of Ithaca College has examined sound sets in English/Spanish-speaking bilingual children. Freedman’s results confirmed the dual-process learning ability, which dives deeper into how bilingual children pick up languages so quickly. His research also showed that bilingual children not only learn two different words at the same time, but they keep these words completely separate within their inner thought process. Until now, many parents worried that exposing their child to multiple languages would lead to confusion and frustration. However, with this new data, parents should rest assured that their child will actually benefit from bilingualism. Further research conducted at Northwestern University provides additional support for the benefits of bilingualism in children, some of which include:

• Improved attention to detail
• Ability to focus on important details
• Early onset of conflict management skills
• Improved memory
• Improved executive control
• Protection against certain illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease
• Lessening of symptoms associated with cognitive decline
• Improved social skills
• Reduced stress
• Reduced risk for depression

Original article: http://voxxi.com/2013/07/16/bilingual-children-cognitive-health-stress/

Additional research information: http://ijb.sagepub.com/content/16/4/369.full.pdf+html

Federal bilingualism must not be allowed to slide

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In Canada, The Official Languages Act gives English and French equal status in the country’s government. Fostering bilingualism is something the nation has prided itself in since it was enacted in September of 1969. The bilingual status promoted in the Act is one of the defining features of the nation’s identity, and it has been a crucial factor in the preservation of national unity. In his latest report, Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, declared that there has been a general decline in bilingualism in the federal public service. Fraser found instances of negligence in even the highest rankings of the Canadian government, where English was becoming the go-to-language in what was becoming a unilingual system. The government will need to find a way to enhance its policy in order to preserve Canadian law, policy and excellence.

Original article: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Editorial+Federal+bilingualism+must+allowed+slide/9161534/story.html

Bilingualism can delay the onset of dementia

New research conducted by Nizam’s Institutes of Medical Sciences in India suggests that bilingualism can delay the onset of three types of dementia: frontotemporal, vascular, and Alzheimer’s disease. Of the patients studied who were diagnosed with dementia, over half were bilingual. These patients’ records showed that they had developed dementia, on average, 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. Interestingly enough, the researchers also found that literacy did not play a factor in the delay period. How bilingualism actually slows the effects of dementia is still unclear, however. The science behind the mechanism of action is certain to be the next phase of research.

The original article can be found here: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/08/bilingualism_could_delay_onset_of_dementia_partner/

Bilingualism helps aphasia sufferers relearn primary language

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Aphasia is a condition in which those who have suffered a brain injury, such as a stroke, become impaired in their ability to use and understand language. Recent studies show that while being bilingual adds difficulty to the rehabilitation process, due to the disruption between the two languages, being able to fluently speak two languages can be used as an aid in recovery. Interestingly enough, focusing on rehabilitation in the secondary language results in a “transfer effect” to the primary. Correlations between syntax, phonology, vocabulary and meaning aid language rehabilitation, but the researchers say working on cognates help the most with language transfer. This interesting application of bilingualism will hopefully lead to even more beneficial rehabilitation methods.

The original article can be found here: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266743.php

Bilingualism is Yoga for the Brain

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Contrary to previous belief that learning two languages at once would hurt kids when it comes to language processing, learning a second language is now something stressed at a young age and being bilingual is seen as a benefit. Research shows that bilinguals have greater levels of mental flexibility than those who speak only one language. This is due to the fact that fluent bilinguals have both languages active at all times, regardless of whether they’re consciously using both, and they are able to control the parallel activity of both languages and select which one they want to use without actually consciously thinking about it. Hopefully this new research will decrease the age at which students in the United States learn a second language and lead to an increase in bilingualism.

The original article can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/bilingualism-mental-flexibility/story?id=20247781

FAQ: Do children get confused learning two languages at once?

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No, children do not get confused about languages. Bilingual children speak at least two languages. Instead of confusing the two, they have to learn what language(s) they can use with each person. They start learning fairly early on (before age 2) but this can be influenced by the language situation at home. If some children go through a period in which they mix languages, this is nothing to be worried about. Eventually all bilinguals end up with at least one native language, possibly two. If parents and/or siblings use both languages in communicating with the child then the child will at first naturally assume that everybody is bilingual and that it can mix both languages when speaking with other people. It might take a little bit for the child to figure out that the daycare teacher only speaks English. But eventually it will happen (rather sooner than later). Keep in mind that no healthy grown-up bilingual mixes up languages when speaking to monolinguals.

FAQ: What is a heritage language?

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A heritage language is a language learned the same way as a native language, but it is thought of as being learned in an incomplete manner. There are different degrees to which someone can be a heritage speaker. This can range from having only passive knowledge (understanding) to very advanced fluency (passive and active).

For example, a person can grow up in a house where his or her parents speak only Ukrainian, but outside the home everybody else speaks English. If the only Ukrainian input this person gets is from his or her parents then, this speaker will most likely become a heritage speaker of Ukrainian.