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English and German: Two languages, two ways of looking at the world

Do you speak more than one language? Does your worldview change when you use one or the other? A study by Panos Athanasopoulos (published in Psychological Science) examined how German/English bilinguals and also monolinguals responded to a number of questions in order to see how they perceived reality.

Bilingual participants were shown video clips of events with a motion in them (i.e. a woman walking towards a car or a man cycling towards the supermarket) and were then asked to describe the scenes. It is important to note that, according to Athanasopoulos, in general, monolingual German speakers tend to describe the action but also the goal of such action. So, they would say something like “A woman walks towards her car” or “a man cycles towards the supermarket”. Monolingual English speakers, however, will describe those scenes as “a woman is walking” or “a man is cycling”, without mentioning the goal of the action. Athanasopoulos explains that this is because the worldview assumed by German speakers is a holistic one (i.e. they tend to look at the event as a whole), whereas English speakers tend to zoom in on the event and focus only on the action.

So, how did German/English bilinguals perform? According to the researcher, “they seemed to switch between these perspectives based on the language context they were given the task in”. He also adds that these findings are in line with other research conducted on different language pairs that also looks that distinct behavior in bilinguals depending on the language of operation.

Do you feel like a different person when you speak each of your languages? Let us know in the comments.

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For more information about the study visit: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/27/world-view-learn-another-language

 

Learning a second language as an adult

For a long time, experts have thought that learning a second language “successfully” was impossible for adults. However, a new study carried out at the University of California at Riverside has shown that “adults are capable of learning and processing a new language” like native speakers.

In this experiment, researchers looked at native English speakers who were learning Spanish as a second language. More specifically, they looked at how these speakers understood “sentences in Spanish that contained (…) aspects of Spanish grammar that do not exist in English”. Some errors were also introduced in order to see if participants could detect them. As mentioned above, the results showed that it is possible for adults to learn a second language like a native speaker.

To read the original article visit: https://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/45469

Students should learn second language to prevent dementia in later life

Learning a second language should be recommended to students in order to prevent dementia. Some studies have revealed that certain types of dementia appear five years later in bilinguals than in monolinguals. That is, “bilingual people have a cognitive reserve that delays the onset”. Professor Sorace recommends children to learn languages from age five until they finish university:“Languages should be a requirement for any kind of degree”.

Professor Sorace compared retired people who were doing an intensive course in Gaelic  with other active retired people. They found that in those who were doing a language course, the brain responded better than in monolinguals. That is, bilingual people had an improvement in cognitive functions. Therefore, they believe that education can protect people against developing dementia and highlight the importance of learning languages from childhood.

To read the original article visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12156709/Students-should-learn-second-language-to-prevent-dementia-in-later-life.html

 

In this blog, we have presented several benefits of being bilingual. We have also shown that bilinguals’ brains behave somewhat differently (in a positive way) when compared to monolinguals’. In addition, in a fairly new experiment carried out by Jubin Abutalebi of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, the relationship between being bilingual and a slower development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been studied.

They found that bilinguals develop AD slower than monolinguals, and the provide a possible explanation for that. First of all, in previous studies it has been shown that bilinguals with AD have more atrophy in the brain than monolinguals with the same disease. However, it seems that AD takes more time to develop in bilinguals’ brain because they have “better connectivity between intact neurons”. Abutalebi, however, mentions that “only those who really use the two languages are protected”. In any case, the findings in this study are undoubtedly crucial for future investigations.

Full article: http://www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/being-bilingual-buffers-against-alzheimers-improving-connectivity

Being bilingual alters your brain. Here’s how

New benefits for bilinguals! A new study reveals that being bilingual can affect your brain by changing its structure. According to Judith F. Kroll,  bilinguals’ ability to retain two languages and to alternate between them has an effect on the reshaping of the brain’s network.

In a recent study, they analyzed 60 monolingual and 60 bilingual infants whose ages ranged between four-month old, eight-month old, and one-year old babies. They noticed that when someone was speaking, infants exposed to Spanish and Catalan looked at speaker’s mouth instead of their eyes. Infants that were only exposed to Spanish, on the other hand, looked at the mouth of speakers only when they were talking their native tongue.This study suggests that being bilingual improves their cognitive abilities because “babies who are listening to two languages [growing up] become attuned to those two languages right away. It’s not confusing them or messing them up developmentally—the opposite is true”.

To read the original article visit: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/02/how-being-bilingual-rewires-your-brain/?utm_content=bufferf1bc7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

 

Sorting out what happens in the aging brains of bilinguals

In our last posts we have shown the advantages of being bilingual in children. However, what happens to bilinguals’ brain when they age? Several studies have claimed that bilingualism increases resilience to losing brain capacity. Recently, Perani and her colleagues carried out an experiment in which they compared patients with Alzheimer’s, both monolingual and bilingual.

The results revealed that bilinguals were better at ‘verbal short-term memory and long-term memory’. In addition, monolinguals had more advanced signs of disease. On the other hand, bilinguals were around five years older. In any case, other experts like Duñabeitia claim that more longitudinal studies are needed in order to get clearer conclusions.

To read the original article visit: https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/02/bilingualism-may-slow-alzheimers-progression-but-its-not-simple/

 

Bilingual Brains Have Better Attention and Focus

In addition to the several advantages of bilingualism mentioned in this blog, a recent study has found that bilinguals have better attention and focus.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham recruited 99 participants from which 48 were English-Chinese bilinguals while the other 51 were English monolingual speakers. Participants carried out 3 different tasks: the Simon task, the Spatial Stroop task and the Flanker task. These tasks consisted on indicating the direction or the color  of arrows and squares while ignoring extra information. Both groups scored similarly. However, the monolingual speakers had slower responses than bilinguals.

Researchers concluded that bilinguals are better at focusing because the response time of bilinguals was faster than monolinguals’. According to the researchers, this could be due to the fact that “the lifetime task of switching between languages appears to enhance the ability to maintain attention.”

To read the original article visit: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160909112256.htm