Being Bilingual Makes You Smarter: Bilingualism Interferes With Learning The Mother Tongue (Doesn’t It?)

Why should you learn another language?

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world.

But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people.

Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter.

It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century.

Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other.

But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise.

It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

One recent study found that learning a language expands the brain, and another study found that bilingual brains tend to develop Alzheimer’s disease, on average, four years later than their peers.

Another study found that children who grew up in bilingual households have greater amounts of self-control and are better at learning abstract rules and ignoring unnecessary information – benefits that can be seen as early as in babies seven months old.

It is believed that the benefit arises because bilingual people need to hold multiple languages in their brain. That extra processing comes with increased control.

Learning Another Language Boosts Your Ability to Make Rational Decisions
Researchers from the University of Chicago found that learning a foreign language may boost people’s ability to make rational decisions.

Source: Medical Daily

BY MAKINI BRICE | OCT 25, 2012
Time to brush off that German textbook – and not just because you’ll be able to communicate with German speakers. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that learning a foreign language may boost people’s ability to make rational decisions.

If two situations are equivalent and impersonal, people have a greater aversion to risk if the situation is presented as a potential gain rather than a potential loss.

The study was made up of six experiments conducted on three continents in three languages: English, Korean, French, and Spanish. The studies examined two different cognitive biases, both based on how risk-averse humans are.

One was based on the idea that a loss will be overwhelmingly more painful than a gain would be joyful. The researchers gave participants $15 in single dollar bills, and offered people the following wager: if they correctly predicted a coin toss to be heads or tails, they would earn $1.50.

If they incorrectly predicted the outcome of the toss, they would lose $1.

Statistically, they should have chosen to bet the money every time, because chances were that they would make money.

But in their native tongues, participants refused to bet a significant amount of the time, only betting 54 percent of the time.

In their foreign languages – languages in which they were proficient, but not balanced bilingual – they took the bet 72 percent of the time.

Researchers also tested a second cognitive bias: if two situations are equivalent and impersonal, people have a greater aversion to risk if the situation is presented as a potential gain rather than a potential loss.

According to the blog Wired, in the scientists’ example, they posed the following example to doctors:

“The U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people.

Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed.

Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

If program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.

If program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability that 600 people will be saved and a two-thirds probability that no people will be saved.

Which of the two programs would you favor?”

In that scenario, 72 percent of physicians overwhelmingly chose Option A over Option B, because they would rather choose the safe strategy where people lived, over a risky strategy.

So researchers offered the same scenario, worded differently:

“The U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease, which is expected to kill 600 people.

Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been proposed.

Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the programs are as follows:

If program C is adopted, 400 people will die.

If program D is adopted, there is a one-third probability that nobody will die and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die.

Which of the two programs would you favor?”

This time, the same group of doctors shifted preferences.

An overwhelming 78 percent chose Option D – even though it was the same as Option B in the first scenario.

When these scenarios were given to American students, a similar percentage – nearly 80 percent – chose the safe option when it was presented positively, in English.

But when they were given the same choice in Japanese, that percentage that chose the safe option plummeted to 40 percent.

Researchers believe that a second language can help people think more rationally.

“We propose that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does,” the authors write in the journal Psychological Science.

This study is the only one in a long line that touts the benefits of knowing or learning a second language.

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The International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate [Kindle Edition]

The International Baccalaureate [Paperback]

The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.

It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.

I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.

In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.

I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.

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Amazon Author Page: Thomas Jerome Baker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.

He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.

Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.

Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty six (46) books overall.

The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.

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The Mother Tongue in the Chilean EFL Classroom: How We Learn English [Paperback]

The Mother Tongue in the Chilean EFL Classroom” is told from my point of view. Yet, in a larger sense, it’s an ELT story that makes the effort to share, a moment in time, with some very special people, in a very special country - Chile, a place time forgot, a place where we do things the Chilean Way. Don’t bother looking for it on the map.

Be content to know it is located at the end of the world, literally. One of the most defining characteristics of an EFL classroom in Chile is the quality of the teacher. If the teacher teaches English in English, they display what the quality of their beliefs are, namely, “in this classroom there is no place for the mother tongue.”

If the teacher teaches English in Spanish, maybe they read my book, but weren’t impressed. The teacher’s beliefs are also on display, namely, “there is a place for the mother tongue in this classroom.” Who is right? Who is wrong? At any rate, the language that the teacher teaches in, is crucial. It will ultimately define the students’ achievements.

As you read the book, stay with me. I have not chosen the direct path, because, if you do not have the background on what it is like to use language as an instrument of national policymaking, then you will end up with a misinterpretation of a simple question: Should the mother tongue be used in the Chilean EFL classroom? After reading this book, you will understand why the Chilean teacher teaches as s/he does, and be in a good position to reexamine your own practice...

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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Coordinator of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago 2012 & Edcamp Chile 2013, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago. Edcamp Chile 2013 was held at Universidad UCINF. Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile. Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of sixty one (61) books, all available on Amazon http://amzn.to/Qxmoec . The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.
This entry was posted in Baccalaureate, Connectivism, Culture, Debates, Education, Education Technology, EFL, Higher Education Teaching & Learning, Reading, Reflections, Research, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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