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Why being bilingual works wonders for your brain

The Guardian – Gaia Vince

“In a cafe in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. They are discussing a woman, that much is clear, but the details are lost on me. It’s a shame, because their conversation sounds fun and interesting, especially to a nosy person like me. But I don’t speak their language. Out of curiosity, I interrupt them to ask what language they are speaking. They both switch easily to English, explaining that they are South Africans and had been speaking Xhosa. In Johannesburg, where they are from, most people speak at least five languages, says one of them, Theo Morris. For example, Morris’s mother’s tongue is Sotho, his father’s is Zulu; he learned Xhosa and Ndebele from his friends and neighbours and English and Afrikaans at school. “I went to Germany before I came here, so I also speak German,” he adds. Was it easy to learn so many languages? “Yes, it’s normal,” he laughs.”(more)

The New Bilingualism

The Atlantic – Natalie Gross

“Graduates in white and purple robes exited the auditorium, their newly turned tassels bouncing as they sang and danced to a recording of the popular Latin salsa tune, “Vivir Mi Vida.” They had just graduated from the Margarita Muñiz Academy in Boston—many with more than a high-school diploma. Forty-six of the 51 new alumni of the dual-language school had also earned a Seal of Biliteracy, an official recognition of their academic proficiency in both English and Spanish.”(more)

Advantages of a bilingual brain

Michigan State University – Tracy Trautner

“Why would we want young children to learn a second language while they are focused on learning their primary one? It seems like this would be learning overload at a time when they are also learning how to be friends, count, play on the playground and so much more. However, this is a time in our lives when acquiring a second language comes very naturally. The brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage. They can learn a second language as easy as they learned to walk and learn their primary language. As adults, we have to consider grammar rules and practice, but young children absorb sounds, structures, intonation patterns and the rules of a second language very easily. Up until the age of 8, young learners benefit from flexible ear and speech muscles that can detect differences between the sounds of a second language.”(more)

3 Reasons to Consider Earning a Foreign Language Degree Abroad

The U.S. News and World Report – Anayat Durrani

“Native American Kim McCabe, who belongs to the Navajo Nation, could say the French language had her at “bonjour.” The Colorado native says it was during middle school that she realized how big her world had become, just by speaking another language – and that mastering French would be her long-term goal. “I could communicate with millions more people around the world, not just in France,” says McCabe, who is pursuing her master’s in French at Middlebury College in Vermont. She will spend one summer of her program at the Middlebury Language Schools’ School of French in Vermont and a full academic year abroad at the Middlebury School in France. There are many reasons to pursue a foreign language degree abroad. The six official languages of the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – are widely spoken worldwide. They also serve as languages of international diplomacy and global business. Here are some additional reasons students from around the world have chosen to earn a foreign language degree in another country.”(more)

For children with autism, multiple languages may be a boon

The Spectrum News – Ann Griswold

“The science — what little exists — in fact suggests that these children should embrace multilingualism. “There are few studies on bilingualism in children with developmental disorders, and even fewer with appropriate control groups,” says Napoleon Katsos, lecturer in linguistics at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. In typical children, learning a second or third language hones critical thinking and executive function — a set of skills that includes attention, self-control and mental flexibility2. It also gives them an edge in reading and writing3. Children with developmental delays might reap those same benefits. Bilingual children with autism have language skills on par with monolingual children with the condition, and they acquire social and cognitive skills at the same rate4,5,6. But these children are twice as likely as monolingual children with autism to use gestures such as pointing when they communicate, according to a 2012 study. This finding suggests that they have a strong command of joint attention and are adept at nonverbal communication.'”(more)

Multilingual Prowess: 6 Tips to Guide You in Learning a New Language

The Huffington Post – Sam Cohen

“A cousin of mine went for an internship program in South Africa early last year. When she came back a couple months back, she narrated to me her various adventures that included everything from hiking to bungee jumping. She stayed with a friend in a tiny rural community for the duration of her internship. Naturally, I expected that she should have picked up a bit of the language. But when I brought it up she gave me this answer: “I enjoyed my stay in South Africa and will love to revisit it someday. But more than half the time I could not understand what the natives were talking about“. Many of us can relate to her story; we complain about how difficult it is to pick up a foreign language, both in written form and conversationally. But as businesses continue to cast their net across the globe – thanks to the global reach of the internet – and immigration persists, cultures will continue to meet and overlap and consequently so will languages.”(more)