When Bilinguals Listen

When bilinguals are listening to, or reading, just one language, are their other languages involved? For many years, researchers answered positively but positions are evolving as new studies are being done and more factors are controlled.

How Early a Second Language?

There is a common belief that the earlier a second language is acquired, the more fluent a child will be in it. But how true is this?

The Bilingual Brain

Neuroimaging techniques are allowing researchers to better understand how the brain organizes and processes the languages of bilinguals. A set of studies are described which show how the nature of the languages used, and the type of bilinguals studied, have an impact on the results found.

The Mysteries of Bilingualism I

Even though we know much more about bilingualism than we ever did, many aspects of life with two or more languages remain enigmatic. Three such mysteries are discussed here.

Forgotten? Try Your Other Language

Recent research on the relationship between language and memory in bilinguals has produced some very interesting results. It would appear that both autobiographical knowledge as well as more general, factual, knowledge are guided by language.

Do They Know As Many Words?

It is a constant worry of parents and educators that bilingual children may not know as many words as their monolingual peers. Where do we stand on this issue after two decades of research?

Noam Chomsky on Bilingualism

It is rare that you have the opportunity to sound out one of the great minds of our time on a scientific topic that you are interested in. This happened to me when I interviewed Noam Chomsky on bilingualism.

When Bilinguals Speak

Psycholinguists have developed very refined experimental procedures to show that bilingual language production is a dynamic process which can operate in different language activation states. A recent study illustrates this.

Advantages of Being Bicultural

There are many advantages to being bicultural, two of which are greater creativity and professional success as shown in a recent study. The underlying psychological mechanism that accounts for this is enhanced integrative complexity.

Coming Back to Bilingualism

A young bilingual child stopped speaking one of his languages when he came to the United States for some 15 months. The linguistic and social strategies he adopted when he returned to his home country and once again became bilingual make for some fascinating reading.

False Friends and Other Unwanted Companions

Living with two languages is full of mysteries. One of them is how a language that has been deactivated when we speak or write monolingually nevertheless sometimes comes through in the form of interferences.

Why Are They Talking So Fast?

When we listen to a language we do not master well, we often feel that the speech rate is faster than in our native language. Research has investigated whether there is evidence for this and, if so, how it can be accounted for.

Planned Bilingualism: Five Questions to Consider

An increasing number of families plan the bilingualism of their children. Five important questions they may want to consider are discussed here.

Retaining an Accent

Many different factors explain why some people retain an accent in a second language whereas others do not. The pioneering work of Professor James Flege over the years has helped us understand this intriguing phenomenon.

Humor in Bilingual Couples

Humorous talk is a bonding agent in relationships; it creates intimacy and helps deal with stress. How do partners in bilingual couples learn to appreciate each other's humor, and even partake in it, when it can be so very different from their own, both linguistically and culturally?

Change of Language, Change of Personality? Part II

Many bilinguals report feeling different in each of their languages and some claim that a change of language leads to a change in personality. As more research is conducted on this topic, new issues are raised and new explanations are provided.

When Sign Language Influences Speech

The languages of a bilingual influence one another, either momentarily or in a more permanent way. This is also true when one language is a sign language and the other is a spoken language, as is reported in a recent study.

Born To Be Bilingual

Bilinguals and biculturals of all ages need to be celebrated from time to time. This is a letter to my newborn grandchild who will grow up bilingual and bicultural.

The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism

One of the most dynamic areas of bilingualism research involves the psycholinguistic study of both adults and children. A new book presents the findings of researchers in language processing, language acquisition, cognition and the bilingual brain in such a way that they are accessible to non-specialists.

Changing a First Language Permanently

The languages of bilinguals influence one another but it has long been held that the direction is from the first language to the second language and not the other way round. There is now increasing evidence that a bilingual's competence in a first language can be modified durably, even when the second language is acquired in adulthood.

How Many Are We?

We don't know for sure how many people in the world are bilingual. Official data, when they exist, can produce quite surprising results.

The Man Who Could No Longer Speak To His Wife (Part II)

Researchers have long been interested in multilinguals who suffer from aphasia, that is language and speech impairment due to brain damage. The 200 or so published cases of non-parallel impairment and recovery are both fascinating and instructive.

The Man Who Could No Longer Speak To His Wife

This is the case of a multilingual man who had a stroke and who, upon recovery, could no longer communicate with his wife in the language they had spoken together for some twenty years. A possible reason relates to a very emotional episode he had lived through in his earlier years.

What Do Bilinguals and Hurdlers Have in Common?

Two views of bilinguals are compared, a monolingual (or fractional) view whereby bilinguals are considered as two monolinguals in one person, and a holistic view which states that bilinguals have a unique and specific linguistic configuration.

Can a First Language be Totally Forgotten?

An intriguing question that has been asked over the years is whether a first language can be totally forgotten when it stops being used in early childhood. Recent research on adults who were adopted as very young children and who suddenly changed their home language is starting to give us an answer.

Amazing Bilingual Writers II

A handful of bilingual authors write literature in TWO languages, not just one! Some write their first works in their first language and then move on to their second language, others do the reverse, and some actually combine the two languages in the same work.

Born With a Preference for Two Languages

Babies with bilingual mothers come to the world already attuned to the two languages they hear before their birth. This has been shown experimentally by researchers at the University of British Columbia.

Bilinguals in the United States

Bilinguals represent about 20 percent of the population in the United States. Who are they? Where do they live? What languages do they speak in addition to English?

The Wax and Wane of Languages

Significant life events can change the relative importance of a bilingual's languages over time as well as explain why new languages are acquired and older ones are forgotten.

Speech Discrimination in Bilingual Infants

Bilingual infants are particularly good at discriminating the sounds of their different languages in their first year as long as the languages are acquired through live human exposure. But this does not mean that bilingualism needs to start at such a precocious age. For the majority of bilingual children, it begins at a later age without any problem.