Tag Archives: Bilingual

University of Tennessee Knoxville study: Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no

20 Jan

Francois Grosjean Ph.D. wrote in the Psychology Today article, Who is Bilingual? How one describes bilinguals has changed over time.

This other way of looking at bilinguals allows one to include people ranging from the professional interpreter who is fluent in two languages all the way to the established immigrant who speaks the host country’s language but who may not be able to read or write it. In between we find the bilingual child who interacts with her parents in one language and with her friends in another, the scientist who reads and writes articles in a second language (but who rarely speaks it), the member of a linguistic minority who uses the minority language at home only and the majority language in all other domains of life, the Deaf person who uses sign language with her friends but uses the written form of the spoken language with a hearing person, and so on. Despite the great diversity that exists between these people, they all lead their lives with more than one language.
The more recent and more realistic view of bilingualism has allowed many people who live with two or more languages to accept who they are – bilingual, quite simply. (See here for some feedback on what it is like to be bilingual)…. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-bilingual/201010/who-is-bilingual

Many argue the advantages of being bilingual.

Maria Konnikova wrote in the New Yorker article, Is Bilingualism Really an Advantage?

So does that mean that there’s no such thing as a bilingual advantage? No. It’s just one study. But it adds further evidence to the argument that the bilingual advantage is sometimes overstated. “I’m definitely not saying there’s no bilingual advantage,” de Bruin says. But the advantage may be different from the way many researchers have described it: as a phenomenon that helps children to develop their ability to switch between tasks and, more broadly, enhances their executive-control functions. The true edge, de Bruin believes, may come far later, and in a form that has little to do with task-switching and executive control; it may, she says, be the result of simple learning…. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/bilingual-advantage-aging-brain

A University of Tennessee Knoxville study examined one aspect of being bilingual.

Science Daily reported in Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no:

Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
The study, “No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children’s bilingualism on executive functions,” was coauthored by two UT faculty members: Nils Jaekel, clinical assistant professor of theory and practice in teacher education, and Julia Jaekel, associate professor of child and family studies, together with Jessica Willard and Birgit Leyendecker, researchers from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany….
For their research, the scientists used a computer test to compare the executive function of two groups of children between the ages of five and 15 living in the German Ruhr region. The first group consisted of 242 children who spoke both Turkish and German, and the other group consisted of 95 children who spoke only German.
The test measured the time bilingual and monolingual children took to correctly respond to computer-based problems and stimuli. The results showed no difference in the executive functions of the two groups.
The researchers also considered children’s German and Turkish vocabulary size and exposure to both languages, factors for which previous studies on the topic had been criticized for lacking.
Does this mean there’s no value in speaking more than one language? Not exactly, said Nils Jaekel: “Although bilingual children are not necessarily more focused than monolingual children, speaking another language can provide other social opportunities along the way. However, it is important to continue the research on this topic so parents, educators, and policymakers do not overpromise on the benefits of speaking a second language.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190118123014.htm

Citation:

Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says n
Date: January 18, 2019
Source: University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Summary:
Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks.
Journal Reference:
Nils Jaekel, Julia Jaekel, Jessica Willard, Birgit Leyendecker. No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children‘s bilingualism on executive functions. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (1): e0209981 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209981

Here is the press release from University of Tennessee Knoxville:

PUBLIC RELEASE: 18-JAN-2019
Does being bilingual make children more focused? Study says no

Bilingual children do not have more advantages than monolingual children when it comes to executive function, which includes remembering instructions, controlling responses, and shifting swiftly between tasks, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE.
The study, “No evidence for effects of Turkish immigrant children’s bilingualism on executive functions,” was coauthored by two UT faculty members: Nils Jaekel, clinical assistant professor of theory and practice in teacher education, and Julia Jaekel, associate professor of child and family studies, together with Jessica Willard and Birgit Leyendecker, researchers from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany.
“The research of executive functions is important because they have direct application to success in both real-life and academic situations,” said Julia Jaekel.
For their research, the scientists used a computer test to compare the executive function of two groups of children between the ages of five and 15 living in the German Ruhr region. The first group consisted of 242 children who spoke both Turkish and German, and the other group consisted of 95 children who spoke only German.
The test measured the time bilingual and monolingual children took to correctly respond to computer-based problems and stimuli. The results showed no difference in the executive functions of the two groups.
The researchers also considered children’s German and Turkish vocabulary size and exposure to both languages, factors for which previous studies on the topic had been criticized for lacking.
Does this mean there’s no value in speaking more than one language? Not exactly, said Nils Jaekel: “Although bilingual children are not necessarily more focused than monolingual children, speaking another language can provide other social opportunities along the way. However, it is important to continue the research on this topic so parents, educators, and policymakers do not overpromise on the benefits of speaking a second language.”
###
CONTACT:
Brian Canever
865-974-0937
bcanever@utk.edu
Jules Morris
865-719-7072
julesmo@utk.edu
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

The issue of official language is often addressed in the context of national cohesion.

Brandon Brice wrote in Why English should be the official language of the United States:

The United States, contrary to popular belief, has no official language. Federal legislators have proposed laws to make English the official business language of the United States, and every year that legislation dies….
Making English the official language would encourage new migrants to learn the language of the country they have adopted as theirs. The end goal is to unite the American people, while improving the lives of immigrants and native-born inhabitants.
There would be savings; official English would save billions in federal spending. The direct cost of translators and bilingual education alone are billions, and many of these costs are born by local governments. In Los Angeles in 2002, $15 million, or 15 percent of the election budget, was devoted to printing ballots in seven languages and hiring bilingual poll workers. Los Angeles county hires over 400 full-time court interpreters at a cost of $265 per day. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law Executive Order 13166, which forces health care providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid payments to hire interpreters for any patient who requires one, at the providers’ own expense.
The indirect costs of accidents and lost productivity caused by the millions of people who don’t speak English are billions more….
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/31/why-english-should-be-official-language-united-sta/

Noemi Nagy asks an interesting question in Language Diversity as a Source of Conflict in Hungary—Possible Implications of Immigration.

Nagy described the language conflict:

Hungary has been a multinational and multilingual state for a thousand years, therefore had to implement policies and legislation on its minorities and linguistic diversity. After the democratic transition in 1989/90, the country’s new legislation on the protection of minorities became generally praised as standard setting in Europe. In 2011 a new Constitution and a new law on minorities were adopted, one of the major ‘innovations’ being Hungarian declared as the official language of the State. The aim of the paper is to present and critically evaluate the legislation and policies on language use and minority protection in Hungary in the democratic era, with special focus on the reverberations of today’s immigration boom in Europe, and the Hungarian government’s reactions to that. The paper opens questions such as: Is Hungary’s legal arrangement is appropriate to accommodate current needs of language minorities including new minorities, i.e. migrants? What are the possible implications of influx of immigrants into Hungary in terms of language policy? Will language resurface as a source of conflict as a new layout of multilingualism is taking shape in Europe? https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-77231-8_5

Something to ponder.

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