Tag Archives: Bilingualism

Linguistic Link: Bilingual Benefits for Deaf Children

A new study from La Trobe University highlights yet again the importance of bilingualism from a young age. The same way that early exposure to multiple languages increases cognitive abilities in hearing children, exposure to both spoken and sign language for deaf children has positive effects on cognition and language learning. Check out this article for more details.

While you’re at it, feel free to increase your own bilingual abilities by taking a moment to learn some basic greetings in British Sign Language (BSL), which was the sign language focused on in the study.


Linguistic Link: Clever Apes on Bilingualism

Chicago public radio station WBEZ 91.5’s Clever Apes focused on bilingualism recently. Be sure to check out their segment which highlights the benefits of being bilingual. It also includes an interview with Dr. Boaz Keysar from the University of Chicago who studies language and decision making.

Conference: UIC Bilingualism Forum’s Call for Papers

The Organizing Committee for the 2012 UIC Bilingualism Forum is pleased to invite abstracts for the 2012 UIC Bilingualism Forum.

CALL FOR PAPERS: The UIC BilForum (http://www.uic.edu/depts/ling/BilForum/) is dedicated to research in any area related to bilingualism, including theoretical linguistics, code-switching, SLA, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, cognitive sciences, heritage languages and bilingual acquisition. sycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, cognitive sciences, heritage languages and bilingual acquisition.

Submission Guidelines: -2 page anonymous abstract, including examples and references (please remove hidden identifying information) -PDF file format -No more than 1 individual and one group abstract submission per person
Please see our website to submit an abstract and for additional information: http://www.uic.edu/depts/ling/BilForum/.  Presentations will be 20 minutes each with 10 minutes for discussion.

The deadline for abstract submissions is April 15, 2012. We also request that you kindly forward this call for papers to any potential participants.

The  2012 UIC BilForm  will be held October 4 and 5, 2012 at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Linguistic Link: Bilingual Babies More Perceptive to Nonnative Tongues

Science Friday on NPR reports on a new study of bilingual infants that suggests a bilingual upbringing outfits infants with more sensitive language perception abilities, even for languages other than the two spoken at home. Psychologist Janet Werker of the Infant Studies Centre, University of British Columbia discusses the findings, and whether the trend may hold true through the years.

It was a fun study. As you probably know, babies are prepared at birth to learn language or languages. And in previous work, we have shown that babies can discriminate languages just by watching silent talking faces.

So they see a bilingual speaker, you turn the sound off, and they can tell when it changes from one language, English, to when the person stops speaking English and starts speaking French, even with no sound.

But we had shown in previous work that by seven or eight months of age, babies who are growing up monolingual in English can’t do that anymore, whereas babies who are growing up bilingual in French and English can.

So what we asked here is: Are bilingual infants learning the characteristics of each of their native languages? I mean, clearly they are. The bilingual English-French babies could maintain this sensitivity, which might help them keep English and French apart as they’re acquiring them.

But what we ask now is: Is this a specific sensitivity just to the two languages that the baby is being exposed to? Or as a function of having to pay attention to the cues that will distinguish the two languages in their world, if they’re growing up bilingual, do bilingual babies learn something more general? Do they learn to pay attention to the cues in language that might allow them to keep any two languages apart?

So to address this question, my colleague in Barcelona, Nuria Sebastian Gallas(ph), and I, together with our students Wendy Wycam(ph) and Barbara Albaredo(ph), asked whether Spanish Catalan bilingual infants could also keep English and French apart, languages they’d never seen before, at eight months of age.

So again, we filmed bilingual English and French speakers, and the babies saw the speakers one at a time. They saw a videotape of, let’s say Speaker A reciting a sentence in English, and then again another sentence in English, Speaker B a sentence in English, et cetera.

And the babies watched for a while, and after a while the babies get bored, and they’re not very interested in watching anymore.

And so then to determine whether the babies can discriminate a change from one language to the other, we show them the same women, one at a time, reciting more new sentences, either in the language they had seen before, English, or in the language they hadn’t seen before, French.

And what we found is at eight months of age, monolingual Spanish babies and monolingual Catalan babies can’t tell the difference, just like the English monolingual babies. However, the bilingual Spanish-Catalan babies, so babies who are growing up with two languages, Spanish and Catalan from birth, could distinguish spoken visual English from spoken visual French, even though neither of the languages was familiar.

They showed an interest in the language change and started looking longer again … And so if they can’t discriminate the language change, what happens is they see these same three women reciting yet new sentences in a new language, but it’s the same women. And if they haven’t pulled out something about the language, they’ll continue to get bored, and their looking time will continue to be lower and lower. However, if they can tell the difference between the two languages -hey, she’s doing something different than she was before – then they will be interested again, just like all of us are interested in novelty, and their looking time, their attention gets longer.

[An interesting question is whether] as a function of keeping two languages apart, are bilinguals just learning about the characteristics of languages – that in itself would be quite a substantial thing to learn – but in addition, are they learning something more general?

And in the realm of perception, in my lab, we haven’t really addressed that question yet. We haven’t answered that question yet. But there is work from a lot of other labs that suggests that as a function of growing up bilingual, babies are learning something more general.

Linguistic Link: The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

Mail Online reports on an American woman was sedated for dental surgery and woke up with a British accent.

The 56-year-old tax adviser was given an anaesthetic a year and a half ago while her dentist removed several teeth.  She said: ‘I woke up and my mouth was all sore and swollen, and I talked funny. The dentist said, “You’ll talk normally when the swelling goes down.”’  But while the swelling did go down, her voice did not change.  The accent remained and has now transformed into a more German or eastern European sounding voice.

Neurologist Ted Lowenkopf, of the Providence Stroke Centre in Oregon, diagnosed her with foreign accent syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.  The condition is so rare in fact that only around 60 cases have been reported worldwide since the 1900’s.  Sufferers usually gain their new found voices after severe head trauma such as shrapnel wounds acquired in combat, or after strokes.

It appears Mrs Butler has suffered neither of these and it is still unclear what caused her speech pattern to change. He suspects Miss Butler suffered a small stroke which damaged the part of her brain that affects speech pattern and intonation.

UIC TiL: Cristina Sanz

This Wednesday, March 30th, Dr. Cristina Sanz of Georgetown University will be presenting a talk entitled, “Bilingualism, Cognitive Capacity & Pedagogical Conditions” (abstract below).

Join us at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for the talk and as usual light refreshments will be provided.

Bilingualism, Cognitive Capacity & Pedagogical Conditions

This presentation will report on a series of studies on the interaction between external pedagogical conditions and individual variables, especially those related to bilingualism and cognition. The studies have been conducted within The Latin Project (TLP) paradigm (Sanz, Bowden, & Stafford, N=400+), and have until today looked at a combination of different L1s (English, Spanish, Mandarin) and L2s (Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, English) using a mini-version of Latin as experimental language. Specifically, TLP operationalizes pedagogical conditions in terms of timing and amount of provision of explicit grammar rules in conjunction with task-essential, input-based practice (i.e. +/- explicit conditions) and includes a battery of cognitive measures (sentence span test, PSTM, (L1/L2), the MLAT, symbols/numbers test) to investigate the role of cognitive capacity in the interaction between conditions and variables associated with bilingualism, such as age, aging, proficiency, and strategy use.

In the presentation, I will focus on some of the patterns we have identified across studies: Input-based task essential practice is enough to promote language development; feedback with grammar is more effective for immediate performance, but gains made via interaction with meaningful input and right/wrong feedback may be more stable over time; higher L2 proficiency enhances L3 development; appearance of bilingual advantages depends on the complexity of the tasks performed both in terms of testing and of condition; aptitude is not a fixed trait and can be enhanced with experience in language learning.

These patterns will be discussed in light of what we know about language development under +/- explicit conditions (included in reviews, metanalyses in Norris & Ortega, 2000; Sanz & Morgan-Short, 2005; Spada & Tomita, 2010), the few studies on the role of cognition in moderating the effects of pedagogical conditions (e.g. Mackey, Adams, & Stafford, 2010), and on cognitive advantages of bilingualism, specially Bialystok’ most recent publications.