Several Standford researchers have decided to conduct a study, “Voices of California”, in Central California in order to fully understand how the community views itself, its region, the rest of the state and how that’s reflected in the way they speak. Penny Eckert, a professor of linguistics and anthropology at Standford University, focused the project primarily on California because of its rich diversity. Several participants were asked basic question about their life, memories and thoughts of Sacramento as well as the pronunciation for several words. The pronunciation would later be analyzed for vowel sound and word choice. Researchers have not yet analyzed all the data but one of the findings has demonstrated that in certain cities people’s pronunciation and word choice were more influenced by the South than those on California’s coast.
Associate Professor Leher Singh, at the National University of Singapore conducted a study which looked at the effects of bilingualism in six-month-old infants. The study concluded that babies who are exposed to two languages have a better memory and are able to process information faster than monolingual infants. Infants have the capability to take on the challenges of bilingual acquisition as compared to adults. This long term study began in 2009 and was recently published in the journal Child Development in July of this year.
For more information on the study : http://www.a-star.edu.sg/Media/News/Press-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3300.aspx
In some regions code-switching has sometimes been discouraged among children. However, a study conducted by Yow Wei Quin, assistant professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), demonstrates how this phenomenon is not at all bad. Children who spoke English and Mandarin were studied. The children’s speech competencies were measured in both languages. One of the findings demonstrated how the children who frequently code-switched between English and Mandarin were found to have a better command of the second language. They were able to express themselves better in Mandarin and possessed higher vocabulary. Assistant Professor Yow also expects to expand her research of switching between other mother tongue languages and measuring language competencies through the analysis of syntax. The Bilingualism Research Lab, at the University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the few labs conducting more research on this code-switching phenomenon. Findings similar to these should help parents encourage their children to code-switch between two languages.
Recently, York University professor Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues Kathleen F. Peets and Sylvain Moreno studied the development of metalinguistic awareness in children becoming bilingual in an immersion education program. Their study focused on whether children who attend immersion programs show the same kind of advantages in cognitive skills, as children who are early bilinguals. The authors concluded that the advantages previously reported for early bilingual children could already be detected in children learning another language in an immersion program.
Belgian scientists Anne-Catherine Nicolay and Martine Poncelet also examined the possible advantages in executive control that bilingual children show over monolinguals. Although, their findings demonstrated that the immersion children did better than their monolingual counterparts, there was a negative finding when it came to interference inhibition.
Similarly, Ellen Bialystok and Raluca Barac have written a paper on studies they conducted demonstrating that executive control performance improved with increased experience in a bilingual education environment.
Check out Ajit Narayanan’s TED Talk about his new app that allows users to communicate in any language.
Language is an integral part of mathematics. Nicole Y.Y. Wicha, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at University of Texas at San Antonio, and her team of researchers are currently investigating the effects of bilingualism on the ability to perform basic mathematical operations. More specifically, she is examining whether it is the native or spoken language that is used when evaluating multiplication problems. Her original findings supported previous hypotheses that basic math “was hard-wired in the brain in the language in which it was learned.” However, further analysis showed that this was not the case. In fact, data supported that mathematic operations were performed quicker in the language participants were immersed in and spoke in their daily lives. The findings are significant because it helps show that bilingual children are not disadvantaged in comparison to their monolingual counterparts when learning mathematics in school.
Original article: http://utsa.edu/discovery/2012/story/feature-math-bilingual-brain.html
Another interesting example of how bilingualism affects basic mathematics is with the simple task of counting. Blogger Stephen Greene is raising a bilingual family in Brazil. Mr. T (taken to be his young son) is learning to count in both English and Portuguese. What Greene has found is that Mr. T does not confuse numbers in English with those in Portuguese and vice versa. This could be the first sign that he is compartmentalizing the two languages in his brain.
Original article: http://headoftheheard.com/2014/02/17/a-bilingual-child-count-me-in/
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