Obama speaking Spanish

The Benefits of Bilingualism- Monica Rhor

From Mamiverse, an article highlighting the benefits of biliguanlism:

f you were raised in a bilingual home, you probably already realize the advantages of knowing more than one language. Learning a second language at a young age makes it easier to learn new words, increases brain flexibility, and is correlated with higher achievement in school.

It also can create a more lasting connection to one’s native culture.

In recent months, a spate of new studies has bolstered the belief that bilingualism has lasting benefits – and school districts across the country are taking note.

An increasing number of schools now offer “heritage language” classes, which help students solidify their knowledge of their home tongue. The Highline School District in Seattle has also started a pilot High School Translation and Interpretation program, designed to illustrate career options that come with bilingualism.

The new push to preserve bilingualism represents a shift from the past, when immigrant students were often discouraged from maintaining their native language.

“In the old days, we tried to melt everyone into the English pot,” said Mary Abbott, director of education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “Now, we encourage students to preserve and develop their heritage language. Schools realize that the languages students bring with them are very important and have added benefits.”

Numerous studies support that philosophy.

In a study of bilingual infants, University of British Columbia psychologist Janet Werker found that babies raised in households where Spanish and Catalan are spoken can distinguish between other languages just by watching people speak. Her findings are further proof that exposure to two native languages increases sensitivity to language.

Another study showed that bilingual children use their brains more effectively and are better at multitasking than monolingual children. Those skills may help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease found researcher Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto.

Bialystock’s research found that bilingual adults showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s five to six years later than people who spoke only one language.

In addition, knowing more than one language can help position young people for careers in an increasingly global economy, said Abbott. “They are equipping themselves to be extremely marketable in a global environment.”

The American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages recognized that advantage in a 2010 position statement supporting heritage speaker classes.

“It is critical that these students be able to continue to develop their heritage linguistic and cultural skills in order to become fully bilingual and biliterate in today’s global environment,” the statement reads. “By doing so, they will be well-positioned to live and work in an increasingly multilingual environment in the U.S.”

Heritage speakers are defined as people raised in an environment where the main language of their household was a language other than English. They may have verbal fluency, but only basic reading and writing skills in that language, said Abbott.

In heritage speaker classes, the curriculum must be challenging enough to build on existing skills and students’ background knowledge, and often incorporate literature, history and cultural identity.

The Highline School District’s translation program is another example of the growing recognition of the benefits of bilingualism.

The “Speak Your Languages” program trains bilingual high school students in professional interpreting and translating.

“These young people have an amazing ability to switch back and forth between English and their heritage language, and many of them routinely interpret for their parents and friends,” noted a school district description of the program.

Last year, the Highline district received a grant to make the curriculum available to other districts interested in developing a similar program.

“Languages are an asset,” said Abbott, who pointed out that 19 states allow students to receive foreign language credit by demonstrating fluency in their heritage language. “It’s important for bilingual parents to help their child see the benefits of learning and maintaining two languages.”


Why the perfect language has to be both orderly and random- Article from www.io9.com

Why the perfect language has to be both orderly and random 

If you try to figure out the connection between how words sound and what they mean, you'll be working for a long, long time. While patterns do exist, most language sounds are random...and there's a very good reason for that.
Languages don't really make much sense, at least not from a strictly logical sense. Let's say you were designing a language from scratch. Wouldn't it make sense to associate very big things with correspondingly long words, and to make small words only refer to tiny things? That obviously isn't how it works in English, at least not with any regularity - look at "star" and "microorganism", for instance.
Sounds are similarly chaotic. There are a few areas where it's possible to find so-called "pockets of systematicity", in which certain language sounds tend to cluster around the same basic concept. As Sara Reardon explains in ScienceNOW:
Many English words beginning with "sn," for instance, tend to have something to do with the nose: sneeze, snort, snot. In many languages, vowels made with the back of the tongue, such as "o" and "ah," tend to appear in words that describe something big (boulder), whereas vowels made at the front of the mouth, such as "ee," often denote something smaller (flea). It's unclear why these "pockets" exist: whether they're accidents or are somehow tied to language learning.
And yet these pockets are, at best, vague correlations. They're not strong relationships, and it's easy to find tons of counterexamples for all of this. To test why this is, Lancaster University researcher Padraic Monaghan used a computer to create a series of alien languages, which he then attempted to teach to test subjects. Some of these languages were completely orderly, in which sounds, word structures, and meanings were closely intertwined. The other group of languages were completely arbitrary.
As it turns out, the test subjects had tremendous difficulty learning either type of language. He then started mixing up the sounds within the words, so that the orderly language was no longer truly systematic - a big thing might be described by a long word, but its vowel would now be an "ee" sound. The test subjects had a much easier time learning this language.
The trick, Monaghan believes, is that no language can be truly orderly. If it was, words with similar meanings would sound too similar for people to easily tell them apart. This would make it prohibitively difficult to build up a vocabulary, and so the apparent randomness builds in enough variety for words to be manageable. Of course, if languages were completely chaotic, they'd be just as impossible to learn. The key here is balance.


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Welcome to the Learning to Teach & Teaching to Learn blog. The goal of this blog is to keep an account of mainly technology related resources that I use to teach French and Spanish or that other amazing teachers have created, and to show you that you do not have to be a computer geek to be able to use technology in your class!

I am a French and Spanish high school teacher with a love for languages, technology and my students. I am constantly trying to learn new ways to improve my teaching and thus far, the incorporation of technology into my lessons has had a very positive effect. As a result, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to use it to teach.

I have come across many amazing teachers and am learning so much from all of their hard work, so I will share what I find from others, as well as developing my own resources and trying to provide ideas on how to make technology more accessible to you and to your classes.

I have tried to document this before and did not get past a few posts so here I am again. I will be attempting to make regular contributions to the blog when I am not teaching or taking care of my 13 month old. The first few posts are copied over from my previous blog.

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