Monday, December 6, 2010

Must-read: "Can bilingualism improve your brain multitasking power? Je ne sais pas"

Bilingualism has always been a way of life for many people in Vietnam since time immemorial. Why do I say that? Well, think of Vietnam's history. We as a nation had to live under Chinese domination for a thousand year, then under French colonialism for a hundred year, and now this globalisation with English as the lingua franca.

And not just Vietnam. The situation is the same all over the world. Bigger countries always want to dominate or influence smaller countries; people always want to do more business with more people, so they have to go beyond the borders of their own country. And of course when people from different countries meet, they may get married, have children, and the children will speak the languages of both parents, even though one of the two languages may be more dominant than the other. Well you imagine the rest.

Bilingualism has interested linguists for a long time. And if you study linguistics, you know that language development is related to brain development. Related, yes, but is it good, or is it bad for the development of the brain? People don't agree on the answer. Some say it's good, some say it's bad. I don't know what you think, but I belong to the first camp - those who think it's good.

And now this article from the Los Angeles Times, which is very strong on the positive side of bilingualism. You can find the article here.

A few quotes:
Should parents raise their children bilingually – teaching them two languages from a very young age? It’s a thorny subject, but as UCLA linguist Jared Diamond writes in an editorial in the journal Science, knowing more than one language could improve your multitasking skills from infancy and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in old age.
Experiments with bilingual babies (and yes, babies can be bilingual – they learn to recognize different sounds produced in different languages) showed that the infants were able to adjust to unpredictable changes in a ‘game,’ while the monolingual babies were not.

It helped for the senior end of the spectrum, too – among elderly Canadian patients who had a probable Alzheimer’s diagnosis, those who were bilingual showed symptoms about five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

See? It's beneficial not just for children, but for old people (like me), too!

And I have found motivation to keep this English blog! ;-)

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