quinta-feira, 30 de junho de 2011

sábado, 25 de junho de 2011

Bilingualism No Big Deal for Brain, Researcher Finds

ScienceDaily (May 31, 2011) — How do people who speak more than one language keep from mixing them up? How do they find the right word in the right language when being fluent in just one language means knowing about 30,000 words?

That's what science has wondered about for decades, offering complicated theories on how the brain processes more than one language and sometimes theorizing that bilingualism degrades cognitive performance.
But University of Kansas psycholinguist Mike Vitevitch thinks that complicated explanations of how the brain processes two or more languages overlook a straightforward and simple explanation.
"The inherent characteristics of the words -- how they sound -- provide enough information to distinguish which language a word belongs to," he said. "You don't need to do anything else."
And in an analysis of English and Spanish, published in the April 7 online edition of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Vitevitch found few words that sounded similar in the two languages.
Most theories of how bilingual speakers find a word in memory assume that each word is "labeled" with information about which language it belongs to, Vitevitch said.
But he disagrees. "Given how different the words in one language sound to the words in the other language, it seems like a lot of extra and unnecessary mental work to add a label to each word to identify it as being from one language or the other. "
Here's an analogy. Imagine you have a bunch of apples and oranges in your fridge. The apples represent one language you know, the oranges represent another language you know and the fridge is that part of memory known as the lexicon, which contains your knowledge about language. To find an apple you just look for the round red thing in the fridge and to find an orange you just look for the round orange thing in the fridge. Once in a while you might grab an unripe, greenish orange mistaking it for a granny smith apple. Such instances of language "mixing" do happen on occasion, but they are pretty rare and are easily corrected, said Vitevitch.
"This process of looking for a specific piece of fruit is pretty efficient as it is -- labeling each apple as an apple and each orange as an orange with a magic marker seems redundant and unnecessary."
Given how words in one language tend to sound different from words in another language, parents who speak different languages should not worry that their children will be confused or somehow harmed by learning two languages, said Vitevitch.
"Most people in most countries in the world speak more than one language," said Vitevitch. "If the U.S. wants to successfully compete in a global economy we need people who can communicate with potential investors and consumers in more than one language."
Vitevitch is an associate professor of psychology at KU and an associate scientist with KU's Life Span Institute.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Kansas

terça-feira, 21 de junho de 2011


The European Parliament supports and promotes multilingualism to ensure the highest level of accessibility and transparency for the citizens.
The European Treaties recognize 23 official languages in the EU. Multilingualism is a fundamental value for the European Parliament because it guarantees the cultural and linguistic diversity of the European Union countries.
In the world there are many Countries with more than one official language and their Constitution establishes, as a fundamental principle, the respect of bilingualism, sometimes multilingualism, on the entire national territory. We list below some Countries where multilingualism is official. Do you know the others??

• Belgium

• Cameroon

• Canada

• Finland

• Namibia

• Paraguay

• Rwanda

• Seychelles

• South Africa

• Sri Lanka

• Switzerland

[Published by Directorate-General for Interpretation and Conferences, European Parliament]

segunda-feira, 20 de junho de 2011

The Bilingual Advantage

A cognitive neuroscientist, Ellen Bialystok has spent almost 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind. Her good news: Among other benefits, the regular use of two languages appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Dr. Bialystok, 62, a distinguished research professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, was awarded a $100,000 Killam Prize last year for her contributions to social science. We spoke for two hours in a Washington hotel room in February and again, more recently, by telephone. An edited version of the two conversations follows.

Q. How did you begin studying bilingualism?

A. You know, I didn’t start trying to find out whether bilingualism was bad or good. I did my doctorate in psychology: on how children acquire language. When I finished graduate school, in 1976, there was a job shortage in Canada for Ph.D.’s. The only position I found was with a research project studying second language acquisition in school children. It wasn’t my area. But it was close enough.

As a psychologist, I brought neuroscience questions to the study, like “How does the acquisition of a second language change thought?” It was these types of questions that naturally led to the bilingualism research. The way research works is, it takes you down a road. You then follow that road.

Q. So what exactly did you find on this unexpected road?

A. As we did our research, you could see there was a big difference in the way monolingual and bilingual children processed language. We found that if you gave 5- and 6-year-olds language problems to solve, monolingual and bilingual children knew, pretty much, the same amount of language.

But on one question, there was a difference. We asked all the children if a certain illogical sentence was grammatically correct: “Apples grow on noses.” The monolingual children couldn’t answer. They’d say, “That’s silly” and they’d stall. But the bilingual children would say, in their own words, “It’s silly, but it’s grammatically correct.” The bilinguals, we found, manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.

Q. How does this work — do you understand it?

A. Yes. There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what is relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them.

If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.

Q. One of your most startling recent findings is that bilingualism helps forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. How did you come to learn this?

A. We did two kinds of studies. In the first, published in 2004, we found that normally aging bilinguals had better cognitive functioning than normally aging monolinguals. Bilingual older adults performed better than monolingual older adults on executive control tasks. That was very impressive because it didn’t have to be that way. It could have turned out that everybody just lost function equally as they got older.

That evidence made us look at people who didn’t have normal cognitive function. In our next studies , we looked at the medical records of 400 Alzheimer’s patients. On average, the bilinguals showed Alzheimer’s symptoms five or six years later than those who spoke only one language. This didn’t mean that the bilinguals didn’t have Alzheimer’s. It meant that as the disease took root in their brains, they were able to continue functioning at a higher level. They could cope with the disease for longer.

Q. So high school French is useful for something other than ordering a special meal in a restaurant?

A. Sorry, no. You have to use both languages all the time. You won’t get the bilingual benefit from occasional use.

Q. One would think bilingualism might help with multitasking — does it?

A. Yes, multitasking is one of the things the executive control system handles. We wondered, “Are bilinguals better at multitasking?” So we put monolinguals and bilinguals into a driving simulator. Through headphones, we gave them extra tasks to do — as if they were driving and talking on cellphones. We then measured how much worse their driving got. Now, everybody’s driving got worse. But the bilinguals, their driving didn’t drop as much. Because adding on another task while trying to concentrate on a driving problem, that’s what bilingualism gives you — though I wouldn’t advise doing this.

Q. Has the development of new neuroimaging technologies changed your work?

A. Tremendously. It used to be that we could only see what parts of the brain lit up when our subjects performed different tasks. Now, with the new technologies, we can see how all the brain structures work in accord with each other.

In terms of monolinguals and bilinguals, the big thing that we have found is that the connections are different. So we have monolinguals solving a problem, and they use X systems, but when bilinguals solve the same problem, they use others. One of the things we’ve seen is that on certain kinds of even nonverbal tests, bilingual people are faster. Why? Well, when we look in their brains through neuroimaging, it appears like they’re using a different kind of a network that might include language centers to solve a completely nonverbal problem. Their whole brain appears to rewire because of bilingualism.

Q. Bilingualism used to be considered a negative thing — at least in the United States. Is it still?

A. Until about the 1960s, the conventional wisdom was that bilingualism was a disadvantage. Some of this was xenophobia. Thanks to science, we now know that the opposite is true.

Q. Many immigrants choose not to teach their children their native language. Is this a good thing?

A. I’m asked about this all the time. People e-mail me and say, “I’m getting married to someone from another culture, what should we do with the children?” I always say, “You’re sitting on a potential gift.”

There are two major reasons people should pass their heritage language onto children. First, it connects children to their ancestors. The second is my research: Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.

Q. Are you bilingual?

A. Well, I have fully bilingual grandchildren because my daughter married a Frenchman. When my daughter announced her engagement to her French boyfriend, we were a little surprised. It’s always astonishing when your child announces she’s getting married. She said, “But Mom, it’ll be fine, our children will be bilingual!”

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/science/31conversation.html?_r=1&ref=claudiadreifus

quarta-feira, 8 de junho de 2011

Endangered languages

It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.

However, this process is neither inevitable nor irreversible: well-planned and implemented language policies can bolster the ongoing efforts of speaker communities to maintain or revitalize their mother tongues and pass them on to younger generations.The aim of UNESCO’s Endangered Languages Programme is to support communities, experts and governments by producing, coordinating and disseminating :

tools for monitoring, advocacy, and assessment of status and trends in linguistic diversity,
services such as policy advice, technical expertise and training, good practices and a platform for exchange and transfer of skills.


terça-feira, 7 de junho de 2011

BANIF – The power of belief

We always believe – that our effort is worth it, that quality will always be our stronghold, that attention to the customer is a cornerstone of the business and that, with all these elements, and working as a team, ONOMA will always find its path and increasingly improve its services.

Therefore we have “borrowed” the motto of our new client, BANIF. It is because we are believers that we are able to establish quality partnerships such as the one we have now reached with this major Portuguese banking institution. ONOMA and BANIF have signed a partnership agreement for the translation of legal documentation, to and from a wide range of languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, German, Polish, Hungarian and Slovak.

BANIF is present all over the world, and with it, so is ONOMA.