Bilingual kids have multiple advantages, no matter what the languages are

Dezembro 22, 2015 às 8:00 pm | Publicado em A criança na comunicação social | Deixe um comentário
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Texto do site de 7 de novembro de 2015.


Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Written by

Teresa Parodi

Lecturer of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics,

University of Cambridge

We live in a world of great linguistic diversity. More than half of the world’s population grows up with more than one language. There are, on the other hand, language communities that are monolingual, typically some parts of the English-speaking world.

In this case, bilingualism or multilingualism can be seen as an extraordinary situation—a source of admiration and worry at the same time. But there are communities where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm—for example in regions of Africa. A Cameroonian, for example, could speak Limbum and Sari, both indigenous languages, plus Ewondo, a lingua franca, plus English or French, the official languages, plus Camfranglais, a further lingua franca used between anglophone and francophone Cameroonians.

On a smaller scale, we all know families where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm, because the parents speak different languages or because the family uses a language different from that of the community around them.

How difficult is it for a child to grow up in such an environment? And what are bilingual children capable of? Well, they are capable of quite a lot, even at a very young age. They can understand and produce expressions in more than one language, they know who to address in which language, they are able to switch very fast from one language to the other.

Noses for grammar

Clearly we are talking here of a range of different skills: social, linguistic and cognitive. Social skills are the most known: bilingual children are able to interact with speakers of (at least) two languages and thus have direct access to two different cultures.

But they also have linguistic skills, some very obvious, such as understanding and using words and expressions in different languages. A less obvious aspect is that bilingual children have a raised awareness for how language “works.” For example, bilinguals are better than monolinguals of the same age at pinpointing that the sentence “apples growed on trees” is bad, and “apples grow on noses” is fine, but doesn’t make sense.

Less known are the cognitive skills developed by bilinguals, an issue of great interest for research at the moment, as seen, for example, in work by Ellen Bialystok and colleagues. Probably due to the practice of switching languages, bilinguals are very good at taking different perspectives, dealing with conflicting cues and ignoring irrelevant information. This skill can be applied to domains other than language, making it an added value of bilingualism.

Is it worth it?

What if one of the languages is not a “useful” one because, for example, it does not have many speakers (for example, Cornish)? Is it worth exposing the child to it? The linguistic, social and cognitive advantages mentioned above hold, independently of the specific languages. Any combination of languages has the same effect.

A common worry is that trying to speak two (or more) languages could be too strenuous for the child. But there is no need for concern: learning to speak is more similar to learning to walk than it is to learning a school subject. Learning to speak is genetically programmed. The brain is certainly able to cope with more than one language, as research and experience shows.

There could be a practical problem, though, in providing enough exposure to the languages. The stress is then on the parents to ensure the opportunity to interact with speakers of the languages in question. Bilingualism is not genetic: having parents who speak different language does not guarantee a bilingual child.

Code-switching is cool

Another frequent worry is that of the child learning two half languages, short of the “proper” version of either of them. One may, for example, hear bilinguals—children and adults—using words or expressions from two or more of the languages in their linguistic repertoire in a single sentence or text, a phenomenon known as code-switching.

Often people assume that the main reason for doing this is a lack of sufficient proficiency in one of the languages, such that the speaker cannot continue in the language they started in. They also often assume that the choice of the words from one language or the other is random. Far from it. Code-switching is common among bilinguals and, contrary to popular belief, it follows grammatical rules.

Research has shown regular patterns in code-switching, influenced by the languages concerned, by community norms and by which language(s) people learn first or use more frequently. Very often, code-switchers are very highly proficient in the languages concerned. Code-switching also follows social rules: bilingual children only use it if they know the interlocutor knows the “other” language.

Additionally, if asked for clarification, they know if they have spoken too quietly or used the wrong language, and only switch in the latter case. Both bilingual children and adults have a range of reasons, including sociolinguistic reasons to code-switch. Code-switching can be cool!

All typically developing children will learn one language. To learn more than one they need the opportunity and the motivation. Growing up with more than one language is an asset well worth the investment.

This post originally appeared at The Conversation. Follow @US_conversation on Twitter.




Exposição O Capuchinho Vermelho nas Línguas da União Europeia

Junho 25, 2015 às 12:28 pm | Publicado em Divulgação | Deixe um comentário
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Esta iniciativa, de entrada livre, decorre de 24 de junho a 3 de julho nas instalações do Espaço Europa, centro de informação europeia do Gabinete do Parlamento Europeu e da Representação da Comissão Europeia em Portugal, no Largo Jean Monnet, n.º 1, R/C, em Lisboa.

A inauguração da exposição realiza-se no dia 24 de junho de 2015, pelas 18h00. A sessão contará com um momento de leitura da obra em várias línguas.

Os funcionários da Direção-Geral da Tradução, da Comissão Europeia, destacados em cada um dos Estados-Membros resolveram reunir este conto nas 24 línguas que atualmente são as línguas oficiais da União Europeia. Trata-se de uma forma de sensibilizar o público não só para a diversidade cultural da Europa mas também para a sua vertente multilingue.

Esta exposição representa um esforço de aproximar a Europa dos seus cidadãos através de um dos seus aspetos mais diferentes: as línguas. Estes livros, tal como o próprio conto em si, têm viajado um pouco por toda a Europa e está previsto que continuem a ser lidos por falantes de cada uma das línguas. Trata-se de uma oportunidade única de ver, tocar e ouvir, num só local, o mesmo conto nas suas diferentes versões e, sobretudo, em línguas mais ou menos diferentes.

Representação da Comissão Europeia em Portugal


Como os bebés decidem com quem falar

Janeiro 22, 2015 às 12:00 pm | Publicado em Estudos sobre a Criança | Deixe um comentário
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texto do site  de 12 de janeiro de 2014.

Dean Wissing  Flickr

How babies decide who to ‘chat up’

McGill University, New York University rightOriginal Study

Posted by James Devitt-NYU on January 12, 2015

Babies who understand only one language just assume that other people do, too.

A new study—that also finds the same assumption is not held by bilingual babies—may clarify how babies decide who is worth having a “conversation” with, researchers say.

“Our results not only offer insight into infants’ perception of linguistic abilities, but, more importantly, may help us better understand whom they see as good communication partners,” says Athena Vouloumanos, associate professor of psychology at New York University and coauthor of the study that is published in the journal Cognition.

“Knowing who might make a good communication partner may enhance learning about the many aspects of the world that we learn about from others, including our native languages,” says coauthor Kristine Onishi, an associate professor at McGill University.

Adults of course recognize that others can understand multiple languages. However, it’s less clear if infants share this type of perception.

Babies gaze longer

For the study, researchers examined the responses of both monolingual and bilingual 20-month-olds as they observed a series of interactions between adults with whom the infants were unfamiliar. Here, two adult speakers told an adult listener the location of a ball hidden inside cups using either the same (English or Spanish) or two different languages, which included English and another language (French and Spanish).

Following verbal instruction in one language, the adult always found the ball. Then, in one version of the scenario, the adult following the verbal instruction from a second speaker searched correctly for the ball; in a second version, the adult searched incorrectly (the infants had previously seen where the ball was hidden so knew its correct location).

The researchers employed a commonly used method to measure infants’ expectations: looking time. Previous research has shown that a longer gaze indicates that infants see something they did not expect and therefore visually engage with it longer.

The results show that infants’ expectations about whether the unfamiliar adult was monolingual or multilingual varied the infants’ own language background.

For instance, after the listener gave evidence of understanding one language (by searching for the ball in the correct location), both monolingual and bilingual infants looked longer when the listener then searched incorrectly after receiving information from a second speaker using this same language.

The longer look suggested the infants expected the adult to seek out the ball in the other (i.e., correct) location. However, when information was provided in two different languages, only monolingual infants looked longer when the listener reached correctly; in contrast, bilingual infants looked equally at both outcomes.

That is, monolingual infants, surprisingly, did not expect the adult to understand a second language, even when this second language was the infants’ own language—for example, English-speaking monolingual infants who saw an unfamiliar person respond correctly to Spanish did not then expect that person would understand English.

“The monolingual infants assumed that an unfamiliar person would understand only one language while bilingual infants did not, suggesting that infants do not expect all speech to convey information to all people,” says Vouloumanos.

NYU’s Dean’s undergraduate research fund and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded the study.

Source: NYU


Apenas 13% dos portugueses fala correctamente pelo menos duas línguas

Julho 6, 2012 às 6:00 am | Publicado em A criança na comunicação social, Estudos sobre a Criança, Relatório | Deixe um comentário
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Notícia do Público de 21 de Junho de 2012.

Os documentos mencionados na notícia são os seguintes:

 Eurobarómetro: 98 % dos inquiridos opinam que aprender línguas é bom para os filhos, mas testes realçam défice de competências             

Special Eurobarometer 386 Europeans and their Languages / Especial Eurobarómetro 386 «Os Europeus e as línguas»

Final Report of the European Survey on Language Competences 2012

O Eurobarómetro, divulgado esta quinta-feira, revela que os portugueses são os que apresentam das maiores taxas de probabilidade de não falar qualquer língua estrangeira (61%), só os húngaros e os italianos apresentam piores resultados, 65% e 62% respectivamente.
Portugal fica assim a 12% da média europeia e cai dez pontos percentuais face ao anterior relatório.
A sondagem, efectuada em 14 países da zona Euro, revela ainda que 98% dos pais acha importante que os seus filhos falem outras línguas, mas um estudo complementar da Comunidade Europeia (CE) diz que apenas 42% dos adolescentes são competentes a falar outra língua que não a materna.
Cerca de metade dos europeus (54%) tem capacidade para manter uma conversação em pelo menos uma língua adicional, um quarto (25%) consegue falar pelo menos duas línguas adicionais e apenas 10% sabe conversar em pelo menos três línguas.
Perante os resultados Androulla Vassiliou, comissária europeia responsável pela Educação, Cultura, Multilinguismo e Juventude, alerta que o domínio de outras línguas é crucial pois “expande os horizontes e abre portas, aumenta a empregabilidade e, no caso das empresas, pode criar mais oportunidades no mercado único”.
Luxemburgo, Letónia, Países Baixos, Malta, Eslovénia e Lituania foram os países que apresentaram melhores resultados, ao nível das competências linguísticas.
O inquérito salienta que existe um fosso entre as aspirações e a realidade no que toca às competências em línguas estrangeiras na prática: testes efectuados entre alunos adolescentes em 14 países europeus mostram que apenas 42% são competentes na sua primeira língua estrangeira e 25% na segunda. Um número significativo, 14%, no caso da primeira língua estrangeira, e 20%, na segunda, não atingem nem o nível de “utilizador de base”.
Para os dados do inquérito, realizado na Primavera de 2011, foram inquiridos cerca de 54 mil alunos de 14 países da União Europeia

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