People who speak and write more than one language are 'Smarter'

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by RayKalm, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. RayKalm

    RayKalm SENIOR MEMBER

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    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.

    Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

    In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

    The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

    Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

    The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

    The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

    In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

    Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

    Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

    Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.
    This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

    Correction: March 25, 2012


    The Gray Matter column on bilingualism last Sunday misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra.

    [​IMG]

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html?_r=0
     
  2. curioususer

    curioususer FULL MEMBER

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    I can speak 3 languages, write 2.
     
  3. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    I wish that was true. :woot:

    I speak Cantonese/Mandarin/English.
     
  4. KingMamba

    KingMamba ELITE MEMBER

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    I thought Cantonese and mandarin were different dialects but still both Chinese. :unsure:
     
  5. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    You're right. :tup: They are both Chinese dialects.

    In China, we refer to Cantonese and Mandarin as two dialects of the same language.

    Western Linguists however, refer to them as two separate languages, because in spoken form they are not mutually intelligible without some experience with the other. In written form they are the same. So they prefer to say that Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages, but they are both "Chinese languages".

    It's really an issue of semantics. Either way works, but in practice, a native Cantonese speaker like myself has to learn Mandarin in order to speak it properly. It you haven't learned the other dialect, it involves a lot of guesswork.
     
  6. kobiraaz

    kobiraaz ELITE MEMBER

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    i speak Bengali , Hindi/Urdu, English , can read and write Arabic! And i am not smart :(
     
  7. KingMamba

    KingMamba ELITE MEMBER

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    One of my close friends was Chinese, he only spoke Cantonese. He said Mandarin was harder to learn is that true?? Also Cantonese is more widespread or Mandarin??
     
  8. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    For a non-Chinese, I would say that Mandarin is easier to learn, because there are fewer tones (only 4) and the sounds are more similar to English.

    Since your friend is an overseas Cantonese, then of course he will find Cantonese much easier to speak than Mandarin. There are a lot of sounds in Mandarin that don't exist in Cantonese, such as "r" and "sh".

    Mandarin is FAR more widespread, with almost a billion people being able to speak it. Cantonese has about 90 million speakers, most of them living in Guangdong province.

    Mandarin is the official language of China and the ROC (Taiwan), and is one of the official languages in Singapore too. It acts as a "Lingua Franca", allowing Chinese people to communicate with other Chinese people easily without having to learn the other side's dialect.
     
  9. KingMamba

    KingMamba ELITE MEMBER

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    Oh alright so I will learn Mandarin whenever I get around too it. My uncle is in Beijing doing business he speaks Mandarin as well. :D
     
  10. 1ndy

    1ndy FULL MEMBER

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    Hindi - Read/Write/Speak
    Urdu - Read/Write/Speak
    English - Read/Write/Speak
    Marathi - Read/Write
    Kumauni - Speak
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    :woot: so i am the most smarter here :taz:
     
  11. sms

    sms SENIOR MEMBER

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    That's plain wrong. Mandarin is comparatively easy to learn and most common (read official language) in China.

    Cantonese, Hokian, Shanghainese and other dialect are limited to certain regions and may not be understood by people in other providences.

    Good thing about Chinese Mandarin and other dialects is that they use SAME script. If you can write every one can read and understand :)
     
  12. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    Other East Asians (such as Japanese) will also be able to read it if you write with Chinese characters.

    Kanji - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hanja - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    So it is quite useful if you are traveling around any region in East Asia.
     
  13. sms

    sms SENIOR MEMBER

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    Let me burst your bubble... Being an Indian negates all those qualities and intellect you achieved from learning those languages.

    In short if you are Indian you'll be stinky, suffering from malnutrition with low IQ equal to buffalo :D

    FYI I can read write 7 language, speak 11 including Mandarin but my IQ is still below 35 :(
     
  14. Chinese-Dragon

    Chinese-Dragon PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    I know some fellow Chinese who can speak a LOT of Chinese dialects. (E.g. Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka, Shanghainese, Gan, Xiang, etc.)

    But the written form is the same for all, and the vocabulary is the same as well.

    So, for a Chinese person to learn another Chinese dialect is considerably easier than say, a Spanish person learning Japanese, or a Russian learning Persian.
     
  15. veekysingh

    veekysingh FULL MEMBER

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    i can speak and read . Hindi , English , mandarin,bhojpuri , magehi,Sanskrit . and can write all of them too.