Wednesday, September 7, 2011
In an interconnected world, speaking more than one language is becoming increasingly common. Approximately one-fifth of Americans speak a non-English language at home, and globally, as many as two-thirds of children are brought up bilingual.
Research suggests that the growing numbers of bilingual speakers may have an advantage that goes beyond communication: It turns out that being bilingual is also good for your brain.
Judy and Paul Szentkiralyi both grew up bilingual in the U.S., speaking Hungarian with their families and English with their peers. When they first started dating, they spoke English with each other.
But they knew they wanted to raise their children speaking both languages, so when things turned serious they did something unusual — they decided to switch to Hungarian.
Today, Hungarian is the primary language the Szentkiralyis use at home. Their two daughters — Hannah, 14, and Julia, 8 — speak both languages fluently, and without any accent. But they both heard only Hungarian from mom and dad until the age of 3 or 4, when they started school.
"When she did go to preschool that accent was very thick – she counted like Vun, two, tree," said Judy Szentkiralyi, recalling Hanna's early experience with English. "And by the time four or five months went by, it was totally gone."
Dispelling Confusion Around Bilingualism
The Szentkiralyis say that most people were supportive, but not everyone. Paul recounts an uncomfortable confrontation Judy once had in the local grocery store.
"I remember one time you came home and you said this one lady was like, 'When is she going to learn English?' And it was like, 'Well, when she goes to school she'll learn English,'" he said.
"People would often say, 'Well, won't they get confused?" added Judy. "And I would have to explain, 'Well, no, it wasn't confusing for us.'"
The idea that children exposed to two languages from birth become confused or that they fall behind monolingual children is a common misconception, says Janet Werker, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who studies language acquisition in bilingual babies.
"Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual," said Werker, whose own research indicates babies of bilingual mothers can distinguish between languages even hours after birth.
"There is absolutely no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to confusion, and there is no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to delay," she said.
Werker and other researchers say the evidence to the contrary is actually quite strong. Instead of holding you back, being bilingual, they say, may actually be good for you.
Tuning In To The Right Signal
Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist from York University in Toronto, says the reason lies in the way the bilingual mind uses language.
"We don't really know very much in psychology," said Bialystok. "But the one thing that has been so overwhelmingly proven, that I can say with great certainty, is this: For a bilingual who really has two good languages that they use, both of them are always active."
In other words, no matter what language a person is speaking at the moment, both languages are active in the brain.
"The evidence is very dramatic. Even if you are in a context that is utterly monolingual, where you think there is absolutely no reason to think about Chinese or Spanish or French, it is part of the activated network that's going on in your brain," she said.
This means that bilinguals have to do something that monolinguals don't do — they have to keep the two languages separate. Bialystok likens it to tuning into the right signal on the radio or television: The brain has to keep the two channels separate and pay attention to only one.
"The brain has a perfectly good system whose job it is to do just that — it's the executive control system. It focuses attention on what's important and ignores distraction. Therefore, for a bilingual, the executive control system is used in every sentence you utter. That's what makes it strong," said Bialystok.
Remodeling The Brain?
Constantly engaging this executive control function is a form of mental exercise, explains Bialystok, and some researchers, including herself, believe that this can be beneficial for the brain. Bilingual speakers have been shown to perform better on a variety of cognitive tasks, and one study Bialistok did found that dementia set in four to five years later in people who spent their lives speaking two languages instead of one.
"They can get a little extra mileage from these cognitive networks because they have been enhanced throughout life," said Bialystok.
And the advantages of bilingualism may be due to more than just "mental fitness." Bialystok says there's some preliminary evidence that being bilingual may physically remodel parts of the brain. It's something researchers are only beginning to look into, but she says there is reason to believe that speaking a second language may lead to important changes in brain structure as well.
Do Movie Trailers Offend or Shock You?
Please join us for a ribbon cutting and tour of the new Reclamation GREEN Building.
2:30pm Exterior interpretive talks
3:00pm Dedication and Speakers
3:30pm Ribbon Cutting and Open House
1400 Fir Street, Boulder City
Is the country in a Wagnerian battle for our very soul?
Conservatives and Liberals, swords unsheathed, shields at the ready and fire and brimstone ready to be released seem themselves in a battle for the future, sole and definition of who we are as a nation.
Neither, but more so the Conservatives, see themselves as part of a governing body of compromise, solutions and providing for the short as well as long term needs of America, Americans and the leadership of the Free World!
Cue the drums, symbols and cannon!
But no one is listening to the people, who say they want compromise, progress, jobs and to move past this bickering and forward as a country.
No to politicians, pundits and the big money, it is a battle to the death.
Not one for the reality of governance, which includes meeting the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters, providing for future generations and educating the next generation.
Yes, issues of race, age, ethnicity, the language you speak and the job you are trained to do and good at are brought into question in this new opera for the future of our nation.
But no one seems to be willing to settle for a soft song, a series of compromising melodies that combine the multiple cultures, ideas, beliefs and solutions into one tapestry that has any chance of working in view of the titanic challenges ahead.
No one seems to be willing to leave the Clash of the Titans, the epic battles behind.
No, better to look good on TV, sound strong, stir up anger with short sound clips and invented "facts" then sit down and work things out in a way that just might work.
The world has their eyes on us now...and they are laughing.
Speaking in Public
1. Understand the value of a course in public speaking and applications in students life of the communication model
2. Understand the long tradition of communication studies
3. Identify the major similarities and differences between public speaking and everyday conversation (interpersonal communication)
4. Understand that nervousness is normal, and even desirable
5. Investigate methods of using or controlling nerves, making it work for you as a speaker
6. Understand the elements of the communication process and how to use them in everyday life
7. Understand to adapt to and grow stronger from cultural diversity
8. Understand ethnocentrism, when to use it and how to avoid it
B. Public Speaking is vital
1. Spreading, using and resolving ideas, influence and knowledge
2. Public speaking touches everyone and every aspect of life
a. Helps gain success in every aspect of life
b. Vital as a means of civic engagement
c. Can be a form of empowerment
d. Influences and can even control opinion and actions
e. Helps advancement at work, in religious and other communities
f. Builds your own credibility (Ethos).
1. Career advancement, understanding communication is a key resource
2. Career advancement, being able to speak to groups is a key asset.
3. Understanding and using Communication will lead to improvement in:
a. Grades, Academics
b. Success (Money and otherwise)
c. Understanding others and the world around you
d. Marketing and being marketed or sold to
e. Civic Responsibility (more later)
a. Organizing thoughts
b. Tailoring message to the audience
c. Response to and adapting to feedback
d. Seeking Maximum Impact
5. Differences from one on one interpersonal communication
a. Public Speaking is structured
b. Public Speaking requires more formal language
1. Appropriate to audience
2. Best to communicate complete concepts and ideas
3. You are being judged by listeners
4. Your ethos is directly involved in communication (more later)
Bob Sheppard, who became the Yankees’ public-address announcer about the time Methuselah was trying out at third base, proved to be pretty good at political forecasting.
During a phone conversation with me from Florida in February 2005, he mentioned a certain “young fellow” in national politics. The name eluded him but, Mr. Sheppard said, “he struck me as someone who is going to be heard from again and again and again.” That young fellow was a new United States senator from Illinois, still wet behind the ears, someone named Barack Obama.