The joys and benefits of bilingualism

The article describes how a man and his wife move their children from England, where the children were raised, back to their home land, Italy. There the author explains how the children must try to become fully bilingual in both English and Italian.

When the children were younger, growing up in England, they used to speak Italian but because their mother wanted to assimilate them into the English world, the children lost their ability to speak the language although they were still able to understand it. The father, who is the author of the article talks about how their personalities have changed as they relearn the language (Italian), and how interesting it is to see these changes when they speak and in how they act.

Jones briefly talks about bilingualism and how it has changed peoples opinions over the years. Until recent years, bilingualism was seen as bad because it was considered to be “deleterious to development”, and it was also thought to “impede integration at school and probably lead to academic regression and confusion,”. Later, according to Jones, some studies concluded and proved the complete opposite. What emerged, through hundreds of experiments, was the notion that rather than having two different “pockets” containing French and English, the bilingual’s brain had one huge holdall for both, according to Jones.

Along with this, other research arose about the ability to empathize through the acquisition of more than one language. It was obvious to the author that if a bilingual is habitually changing their language to accommodate the interlocutor and their context, the bilinguals inevitably going to be used to taking into account other people’s abilities and points of view. Jones goes on to name other benefits and studies that have shown that speaking a secondary language has been and is beneficial for those who speak it, and how he has seen this first hand with his children.

However, Jones knows that not everyone is on board when it comes to bilingualism. Nationalists see it as a bad thing, calling “code-switching” traitorous.  In recent years, certain separatist movements have assiduously promoted their own tongue and, inadvertently or deliberately, reduced the use of another. The author also touches base on the differences between languages, and how he finds it hard to think in one language and speak in another, because there are usually no equivalent phrases or words to the ones he knows in English, and so he cannot translate them directly into Italian.

He ends by saying that, the hypothesis – known also as “linguistic relativism” – surely points to a truth: that the more languages we know, the more agile our conceptual thinking will be. He says that when someone learns a new language they not only learn new words, or sounds, but new notions. This is what he has witnessed first hand with his children. Jones compares this to putting on new glasses to be able to see the world with different eyes. Through this acquisition of different languages, one is able to then gain a different perspective on the world.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/21/the-joys-and-benefits-of-bilingualism

 

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