Benefits of Bilingualism

Brilliant post that explains some of the benefits of bilingualism. They include;

1. A conscious approach can help you clean up your writing and your speech and help you communicate more clearly.

2. Bilingual individuals can pick out a speaker’s voice easier

3. Develop creativity because learning a second language improved speakers’ planning, cognitive flexibility, and working memory, three pillars on which creativity is built.

4. Patients who spoke more than one language had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years after their monolingual counterparts.

and finally

5. Make smarter decisions as people thinking in a foreign language were more likely to consider a question more slowly and analytically than in their native language 

Really interesting thanks to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-roitman/why-it-makes-more-sense-t_b_3435076.html for this story.

Recent research suggests that learning a new language, at any age, not only will enhance your next vacation or better prepare you for an upcoming business trip, it can also make you a better listener, boost your creativity, spur brain growth, and for some people, even delay Alzheimer’s.

Each of these benefits stems from the various ways that language learning improves your brain’s ability to focus. Learning a language physically changes your mind, ultimately making you a stronger, more creative thinker. Here are five reasons why you should start learning a foreign language right now:

1. To improve your communication skills. The key here is consciousness. While most of us rarely think about the grammatical structures of our native tongue, learning a second language brings them into stark relief. When attempting to write or speak in a second language, you suddenly have to focus more on the order of words, your verb tenses, and parts of speech. And in recognizing how sentences are constructed in a second language, you can become more aware of how they’re arranged in your first language. That more conscious approach can help you clean up your writing and your speech and help you communicate more clearly.

2. To become a better listener. A study at Northwestern University showed that bilingual individuals could better pick out a speaker’s voice amidst distracting noises. This superior “attention, inhibition, and encoding of sound,” as the researchers put it, can help you better focus on what a client, boss, or employee is saying. The ability to listen closely is a valuable skill that can translate into a real dollar value. Look at IKEA, which attributes its record 2012 revenues and growing appeal in part to its ability to listen to customers and then respond accordingly.

3. To boost your creativity. Every time you speak a second language is an exercise in creativity. While words in your native language might string themselves together naturally, requiring little effort on your part, constructing sentences and meaning in a second language often requires more conscious thought. A study published last year found that learning a foreign language enhanced people’s fluency, elaboration, originality, and flexibility, the four scales measured by the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. Researchers concluded that learning a second language improved speakers’ planning, cognitive flexibility, and working memory, three pillars on which creativity is built.

4. To sharpen your mind. Learning a second language can beef up your brain’s executive control center — the hub that helps manage your cognitive processes. A second language offers a strong exercise regimen for the executive control center, ultimately making it more efficient. Bilingualism can keep this center strong even as you age. In a study of 24 million dementia patients worldwide, many of whom also had Alzheimer’s, researchers found that the patients who spoke more than one language had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years after their monolingual counterparts.

5. To make smarter decisions. A study completed last year showed that people thinking in a foreign language were more likely to consider a question more slowly and analytically than in their native language. It seems that thinking in your native tongue is often associated with breezy, emotional decision-making that reveals natural biases. But when considering the same problem in a non-native tongue, subjects in the study demonstrated “enhanced deliberation” based more on cold hard logic. So the next time you have to make a big decision, you might get a better outcome if you consider it in a language other than your own.

As a language learner, you’ll not only become a more conscious thinker and listener who can communicate clearly and think creatively, but you’ll also gain the most significant benefit of multilingualism: a broader, more global perspective. Each of the five benefits outlined above show that learning another language really does reshape the way we think, helping us better empathize and communicate with customers, partners, and employees by adopting, through language, a new way to see the world.

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bilingual students with proficiency in both mother tongue and English outperformed students who were proficient in only one of either mother tongue or English, even when the bilingual students came from less-resourced schools

An interesting report about bilingualism in South Africa. Here are the highlights.

However, “multilingualism as a pervasive feature of the South African identity is something yet to be realised and, although learners are expected to be able to use English as the official language of learning, many are excluded from it”,

“According to the Caps [new curriculum] document, the first additional language is used for certain communicative functions in a society, meaning it is merely a medium of learning and teaching in education,” he said. The home language, on the other hand, is a tool of cultural preservation and articulation.

Ultimately, South Africa should transform through encouraging bilingualism in all levels and spheres of society, Dampier said. “If we are to proclaim a truly multilingual South African identity, we must stop viewing English as a tool for communication in the global village, business and education,” he said. It should rather be seen as an essential part of South African identity.

The Gauteng strategy aims to improve reading and writing and to change teacher practice. But, said Botha, “we have had a plethora of policies and curricula, and yet reading and writing remain a problem”.

She identified three factors that impede progress: the morale of teachers; the lack of teaching and learning programmes for them; and the new curriculum

http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-22-tongue-tied-on-language-policy

Embracing bilingualism helps school achieve Good OFSTED report.

What great news that a school in Peterborough has improved so greatly in the past months that OFSTED have now deemed them as good. So remarkable that news papers Peterborough Today and the Daily Mail and even the radio station R2 have today run the story.

 

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that by embracing bilingualism and using it to benefit your teaching improves and speeds up the rate that the pupils learn English. I have gathered information about its benefits and the results are now starting to come through. The head teacher clearly supports this view of bilingualism and her results show that by embracing it results can be improved quickly. I believe this is the start of the educational culture change which so many schools and LA officers were resisting up until a year or so ago.

 

Head Christine Parker, 54, said: ‘More and more  of the world is  going bilingual. The culture at our school is not to see  bilingualism as  a difficulty.’

I am also hopeful that this great result will also make sure that gone are the conversations littered with  I only have one or two! or what can I do I don’t speak their language? as an excuse is changing. Gone and evidently going are the teachers plodding along teaching what is comfortable for them in such a way that it takes longer than necessary for the children to pick up the language.  Children pick up social language quite easily and it is the schools job to ensure the curriculum is taught and academic language is known and understood. In the future we should now be able to say that  Every Student does Matter.

There will be difficulties along the way as the head describes here;

‘Sometimes parents have tried to help  their  children learn English but their own isn’t too good,’ she said.  ‘The outcome is  the children aren’t fluent in their own language. If  they haven’t got a good  foundation [in their own language] it can be  very difficult to build on  that.’

but by sharing and supporting each other we can ensure that this becomes the reality.

 

Welsh children should all have a chance at bilingualism

Further to my post last week I see this press report from Wales Online again about ESTYN’s findings and the writer supports my belief that we should encourage bilingualism but the policy and strategy for ensuring this including the training of teachers with the level of Welsh needed to be more fluent in English-speaking Welsh schools.

As a parent I for one was pleased that Welsh schools were embraced and that I had the choice of sending my child to a Welsh-speaking school even though English was our main family language. Just as important for my other family members was the choice not to send their child to a  Welsh school but to and English school that taught Welsh. I am sure this is still a really good compromise for most of the Welsh people.

This is just food for thought unless everyone just speaks Welsh in Wales then dual language and the balance between the two must always be measured against the needs of the children and society and not a group that wishes just to promote the language.  Whilst there is a place for this they can alienate if they try to impose their wish. My family members are mainly happy that they speak English and have no wish for their children to learn Welsh apart from an awareness of it and an acceptance of bilingualism.

The report finishes on these notes to which I totally agree.

Whatever action the minister decides to take on the basis of the findings, he  needs to ensure that the excellent work done by his Government doesn’t slip  between the cracks.

 

The Welsh-Medium Education Strategy is a case in point, as are the powers in  the School Standards and Organisation Bill. At long last, the framework is in  place to hold local authorities to account in terms of their Welsh education  strategies – so please, let’s not abandon ship now.

 

For those still young enough to soak it up, to those of us a little more  advanced in our years, including all school staff, the support needs to be in  place to give everybody the opportunity to grasp bilingualism with both  hands.

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education-news/2013/01/31/all-must-have-chanceto-grasp-bilingualism-91466-32713956/#ixzz2JdY5Kj5I

 

 

What is bilingual education – research

As I have posted the other two papers I though that posting the first one that discusses what bilingualism is may be useful as a starting point to discussion particularly for new teachers.

Summary:

What is bilingual education and what purposes does it serve? This paper aims to introduce bilingual education and clarify why there are such diverse patterns of languages used in education. Although education in only one language is taken for granted in some regions of the world, there is still the question of what purpose it serves. In other regions bilingualism or multilingualism is more common, resulting in different types of bilingual education. Language education reflects largely unstated government policies, mainstream cultural values, and minority group aspirations. Their diverse aims result in monolingualism or various types of bilingual education in school systems around the world.
This paper briefly introduces bilingual education and various purposes behind it. Then a second paper will show how various school systems in Japan and the world can be analyzed into types of bilingual education. Weak or strong forms of bilingual education will be distinguished in terms of bilingual outcomes among students. Finally, a third paper will take a pedagogical approach, offering lesson plans to guide non-native speakers of English in doing the analysis themselves. Ten realistic cases of school systems in Japan and the world will be presented for analysis. A worksheet for students to construct a paragraph will add further criteria to decide the type of bilingual education. Utilizing the list of ten varying aims of bilingual education in this paper, and the chart of ten types of bilingual education detailed in the second paper, by completing the convenient worksheet with ten items in the third paper, the ten cases or any other school system in the world involving different languages can be analyzed according to established criteria in the discipline of bilingualism.
Key words: bilingual,multilingual, monolingual, assimilation, minorities, education

Understanding Bilingual Education 1. Analyzing Purposes of Bilingual Education (This paper) 2. Analyzing Types of Bilingual Education (coming soon) 3. Analyzing Cases of Bilingual Education (coming soon)

 

Introduction to Bilingual Education

Bilingualism is the study of languages in contact, typically in situations where people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds share the same space. Bilingualism was analyzed into four levels in another paper: individual, family, societal, and school levels (McCarty, 2010b). Bilingual education is bilingualism at the school level. It is not to be confused with bilingual child-raising (Pearson, 2008; McCarty, 2010a), such as speaking two languages to an infant systematically at home, which is bilingualism at the family level. Bilingual education should involve teaching in two or more languages in a school, that is, more than one language as the medium of instruction for students to learn regular school subjects.

However, other levels of bilingualism, including their cultural dimensions, do influence bilingual education. All people have a cultural identity and a linguistic repertoire, the languages they can use to some extent. Grosjean (1982) explains that “language is not just an instrument of communication. It is also a symbol of social or group identity, an emblem of group membership and solidarity” (p. 117). As a result, the attitudes people have toward different languages tend to reflect the way they perceive members of the other language groups.

Furthermore, languages have a relative status or value as perceived by the majority of a society. Languages are regarded as useless or attractive according to the economic power or cultural prestige attributed to them by the mainstream of a society, which tends to privilege national or international languages. Native languages of children of immigrants may seem to be of no use, and tend to be disregarded, while languages that are valued by the mainstream society tend to be used in education. However, Sweden has offered educational support in 100 languages (Yukawa, 2000, p. 47), while Japan’s limited support has been nearly all in the Japanese language. This shows that it is not a matter of wealth but of the dominant way of thinking in the nation. The contrast in treating minority students can be as stark as a choice between assimilation and multicultural policies (Grosjean, 1982, p. 207).

 

Various Purposes of Bilingual Education

There are “varying aims of bilingual education” because it “does not necessarily concern the balanced use of two languages in the classroom. Behind bilingual education are varying and conflicting philosophies and politics of what education is for” (Baker, 2001, p. 193). These different purposes then lead to various actual school systems of monolingual or bilingual education. Ten typical aims of bilingual education were cited by Baker:

Varying Aims of Bilingual Education
  1. To assimilate individuals or groups into the mainstream of society.
  2. To unify a multilingual society.
  3. To enable people to communicate with the outside world.
  4. To provide language skills which are marketable, aiding employment and status.
  5. To preserve ethnic and religious identity.
  6. To reconcile and mediate between different linguistic and political communities.
  7. To spread the use of a colonial language.
  8. To strengthen elite groups and preserve their position in society.
  9. To give equal status in law to languages of unequal status in daily life.
  10. To deepen understanding of language and culture. (adapted from Baker, 2001, p. 193)

As can be seen from the above list, there are many and diverse purposes for conducting school programs that are called bilingual education, according to the way of thinking of decision makers in different cultures. Grosjean summarizes how implicit government policies affect the languages used in education: “Depending on the political aims of the authorities (national or regional), some minority groups are able to have their children taught in their own language, while others are not” (1982, p. 207). “If the government’s aim is to unify the country, assimilate minorities, or spread the national language, more often than not minority languages will not find their place in education” (p. 207). Whereas, “if a society wants to preserve ethnic identities, give equal status to all languages and cultures in the country, revive a language, teach a foreign language more efficiently, or make its citizens bilingual and bicultural, it will often develop educational programs that employ two languages and are based on two cultures” (p. 215).

 

Conclusion to the First Paper on Bilingual Education

As Grosjean identifies the key issues above, the concerns of bilingualism researchers and practitioners shine through. A society may be judged by how it treats its minorities or protects the human rights of its vulnerable members. Some purposes for selecting languages to use in education may be better than others from both ethical and pedagogical perspectives. In any case, analyzing the diverse purposes behind the languages that appear in schools can deepen the understanding of resulting educational systems in the world, and possibly suggest improvements in terms of bilingual education.

Two colleges in Wales celebrate Bilingualism

Two colleges in Wales celebrate Bilingualism.

http://www.coleg-powys.ac.uk/2012/09/celebrating-bilingualism-in-wales/

Coleg Powys staff and students wore red as part of two special days to celebrate Welsh language and culture.

On Friday 7th September in Brecon and Monday 10th September in Newtown, the College held its Diwrnodau Dathlu Cymru (Celebrating Wales Days) to raise awareness of the opportunities and career benefits of bilingual skills in Wales.

Both college sites were decorated with Welsh flags and bunting and a variety of Welsh music was played in communal areas. The students heard from a number of motivational speakers, who shared their experiences of using Welsh and bilingual skills to further their own careers.

In Brecon the inspirational guest speakers were:

  • Robin Gwyn, the College’s recently appointed Director of Bilingualism.
  • Afryl Davies, joint founder/owner of Cardiff-based communications and media production company, Goriad Cyf. http://www.goriad.com/
  • Sian Roberts, broadcaster, voiceover artist and Welsh food & hospitality consultant. http://coginio.com/
  • Geraint Williams, Managing Director of Llanelli based legal consultancy, Lexium. http://www.lexium.co.uk/

In Newtown the students learned valuable lessons from:

Menter MaldwynColeg Powys would like to thank all the speakers and Menter Maldwyn (http://www.mentermaldwyn.org) for their help in organising the Newtown day.

As well as the celebrations and speakers, students also spent time doing their own research on the Welsh language and culture and undertook some assessments on their own linguistic abilities.

Robin Gwyn, Director of Bilingualism, said:

“Over recent years, Welsh-medium education has increased at all levels across Wales from primary school level upwards. There has, however, been a significant number of Welsh-medium educated young people who choose to stop studying through the medium of Welsh when they reach a new key stage of learning.  One of the stages where this drop off occurs is in the transition from secondary school to further education (FE) college.

“As a result, Coleg Powys is committed to expanding the opportunities available to FE students in mid Wales by helping the Welsh Government provide ‘cradle to grave’ progression in Welsh medium education to increase the supply and demand for bilingual workers and services in the public, private and third sectors.

“It’s an integral part of our overall aim to achieve excellence in all we do in terms of helping young people and lifelong learners in Powys to fulfil their potential through innovative learning.”

IOC – Struggling with bilingualism

As the Olympics progress and after the wonderful opening ceremony full of English and French, French has lapsed behind English in most events.  Strange because in the UK we already have Wales and Scotland not that many miles way from London, where two languages live alive side by side, so why isn’t it happening in London?

Below is a news story from Canada where bilingualism or the lack of bilingualism at the Olympics is being challenged. What do you think?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/ioc-grappling-with-bilingualism/article4463908/

The International Olympic Committee is grappling with an issue familiar to Canadians; bilingualism.

The IOC’s officials languages are English and French. During the Games, the language of the host country becomes a third official language.

Not surprisingly, the London Olympics have been conducted predominantly in English. But even British reporters have noticed the almost total absence of French. Not heard much said about this out aloud though

French has been spoken only a handful of times at IOC press conferences since the Games began and it is rarely if ever heard at venues. Nearly all of the Olympic signage is bilingual, but organizers, volunteers and staff communicate exclusively in English.

By contrast, when the Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver in 2010, French got largely equal billing beside English. However, that had more to do with Canada’s official bilingualism policies than the IOC’s

In fact, English appears to have become the working language of the IOC and the Olympics.

Take badminton for example. The sport is hugely popular in Asia and most of the fans and reporters attending the competition in London are from Asian countries. But when the Badminton World Federation held a press conference last week to announce that eight players had been expelled from the Games for purposely losing matches, the entire briefing was conducted in English. Even though many reporters from China and elsewhere struggled to be understood they stuck to English for their questions. All of the answers were given in English. No other language was spoken.

Basketball games feel almost like NBA outings, with rap music, flashy lights and loud announcers. But not much French. Same at beach volleyball, archery, triathlon and judo.

There has been a smattering of French at the Olympic stadium during track and field events. But even there, English is far more dominant.

The IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Fellim was asked about the lack of French on Sunday and he acknowledged it is not always front and centre.

“It depends the sport,” he said when asked about the use of French at venues. He added that French is supposed to be used during the opening ceremonies and medal presentations. “But sometimes describing something in a sport, it doesn’t bring anything to say it in every language.”

Investigation of cognitive benefits of bilingualism – Sardinian and Scottish v national languages of Italian and English

The International Journal of bilingualism

has just produced its report Bilingualism in Sardinia and Scotland: Exploring the cognitive benefits of speaking a ‘minority’ language

you can get access to it here http://ijb.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/12/1367006911429622.abstract

The research reports on a study investigating the cognitive benefits of bilingualism in children who speak the minority languages of Sardinian and Scottish Gaelic, in addition to their respective ‘national’ languages of Italian and English. One hundred and twenty-one children, both bilingual and monolingual, were administered a series of standardised cognitive ability tests targeted at the four areas that have been previously shown to be advantageous to bilingual children in the literature, namely, cognitive control, problem-solving ability, metalinguistic awareness and working memory. The bilingual children significantly outperformed the monolingual children in two of the four sub-tests, and the Scottish children significantly outperformed the Sardinian children in one of the sub-tests. The differences found were largely due to the superior performance of the Scottish bilingual children who receive a formal bilingual education, in contrast to the Sardinian bilingual children who mostly only speak the minority language at home. The implications of the results are discussed.

Bilingualism alive and well at the 2012 Olympics.

It never ceases to amaze me when out and about that some people, often in positions of importance, seem to miss the whole point of bilingualism altogether and just focus on ‘they must learn English’ …. whoever ‘they’ are.

No notice is taken of any prior learning and often in education then use their trump card what if they don’t write …..Tamil, Portuguese, Chinese… and think that this lets them off the hook with everything else and along their merry way they go continuing to do what they have always done and not embracing change or any other ideas.

It was therefore great to see the  2012 Olympic opening ceremony bilingualised as is the Eurovision Song contest languages are spoken alongside each other and everyone is included.  Critics are quick to point out that other languages are more common or should have been used but again it goes back to complacency and not willing to embrace change and finding the one area that it doesn’t work and hanging your hat on that. What I feel is more important is that everyone is able to communicate and be part of it together rather than being the one person in the corner who is looking on. Sadly some of my educational colleagues do not feel the same and some have argued ‘I only have 1, 2 with EAL,ELL’ and are quite happy for that child or those children to just sit and the teacher waits until they catch up  whilst teaching using often out of date methodologies.

Perhaps with the constant use of the flags and this bilingualism being televised they will start to think differently and embrace what those who speak Welsh and Gaelic and many other languages already know it is a strength not a weakness and should be nurtured.