Bringing up baby bilingual Scientific perspectives on an eternal dilemma Bert Vaux University of Cambridge October 5, 2007 Introduction Chinese couple on train speaking in broken English to their daughter California Proposition 227 (1998) Telugu and Polish nanny (Gopal) Overview “why not” misconceptions → the current problem why & how case studies and recent scientific insights Why not? Common parental worries and problems Common misconceptions Common parental worries and problems parents only feel comfortable in the language they met in (Ernie) parents‟ pride in knowing English (Noure) parents wanting their kids to be “normal” (fluent speakers of (only) AmE) “immigrant parents, people who do not feel part of society, believe that if their child speaks Spanish they will either not be able to assimilate easily (difficulty with learning language/culture), or they will not be allowed to assimilate easily (actively excluded by others)” “I think that the only problem with bringing up my brother the way my mother did it is that it cut him off from many social contacts before he started school because he could not speak English” parents seeing E (but not their L1) as valuable socio-economic commodity working on L2 takes away time child could spend on math, etc. Henrik (German) and Donna (Chinese) speak English to their child because they don‟t know each other‟s language Common misconceptions exposure to n languages → 1/n proficiency (grammar, accent, literary knowledge…) “You get things mixed up sometimes because I feel like I don't have a grasp of one language fully, it's always halfway in between of each language” “if you don't have a really good teacher to teach you, you may not be good at the second language, because some people in Hong Kong, they just translate Chinese directly into English, so it's grammatically not correct” acquisition delay can lead to social problems children will conflate/confuse the two languages "My parents are Nigerian and they speak Igbo, but they wouldn't teach me because they thought I'd be confused" very few attested cases (Kirschbäumerisch, Lomavren…) stigmatisation “In Texas…there's a very large Spanish-speaking community…and because it's so large, it's very severely discriminated against…People hear you speaking Spanish…, they might discriminate against you.” Actual problems blocking of acquisition of L2 contrasts Best et al 1988, Pallier et al 1997 vocabulary smaller? (Dutch-Turkish study) slower? slower picture naming in German and Swedish by young German immigrants vs native Swedish children in Sweden (Mägiste 1979) Possible reasons: More words activated in bilinguals Frequency effect from bilinguals using each language less Not actually so bad… Sometimes „confusion‟ results from acquisition problems indepent of bilingualism child learning English and French simultaneously avoided words containing fricatives in one language by using the word from the other language, e.g. couteau for knife (Celce-Murcia 1977) word relatedness judgements not affected by activation of L1 (Thierry and Wu 2007) picture naming facilitated by visually presented L2 translation equivalent (e.g. DOG:perro; Costa and Caramazza 1999) word recognition in early fluent bilinguals is equivalent for L1 and L2 (Kotz 2001) Conclusions wrt “why not” confusion goes away can be circumvented via compartmentalisation children are extremely good at distinguishing languages and keeping them separate (Rodriguez-Fornells et al 2002); this “language switch” may be in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Hernandez et al 2001) Pettitto et al 2001 capacity to differentiate two languages is in place prior to first words competition Though the other language is activated under certain conditions, this generally does not affect performance and in some cases enhances it. deficiency In vocabulary is far outweighed by the following advantages… Why? scientific and non-scientific reasons Some reasons Non-scientific reasons greater range of expression access to more than one culture employability Scientific reasons bilinguals better at filtering out distractions and switching between tasks (Diamond 2002) bilinguals learn to read faster, because they recognise symbolic relationships between letters and sounds earlier (Bialystok 1997) bilingual kids better at focusing attention and avoiding distractions (tower game) Bilinguals show superior executive processing anti-aging increased chance of maintaining lg after aphasia (for late/non-fluent bilinguals) Post-stroke patient understood 2 languages but could speak only one (Potzl 1983) Bilingual candidates for neurosurgery were found to have areas where cortical stimulation could interrupt naming in L1, L2, or both (Ojemann and Whitaker 1978) How? Pitfalls Strategies Pitfalls Start of school syndrome children start school, realise their peers speak a different language, come home and refuse to speak anything but that language Sticking to home language has been found to eventually overcome this, at least with 1st... Non-oldest child syndrome Some ways of dealing with this… Strategies Works well: natural environment one parent, one language one language at home, one outside both parents speak both languages nanny (source), peers (linguistic capital: summer, immersion school...) Samantha and nanny vs hispanophone friend Works less well Saturday school conventional language classes compartmentalisation (Beirut dog language) rich context (Döpke 1992) many speakers → better learning of category (Logan et al 1991) early interaction with live speakers Social interaction Kuhl et al 2003 early in life, infants are capable of discerning differences among the phonetic units of all languages, including native- and foreign-language sounds. Between 6 and 12 mo of age, the ability to discriminate foreign-language phonetic units sharply declines. Can this decline in foreign-language phonetic perception be reversed? Cf. TV kids with deaf parents! Conclusion: Between 9 and 10 months of age, infants show phonetic learning from live, but not prerecorded, exposure to a foreign language, suggesting a learning process that does not require long-term listening and is enhanced by social interaction. Critical age I: grammar L1 Chinese, L1 Korean / L2 English 46 participants Age of Arrival: 3-39 Minimum residence in the US: 5 years Grammaticality Judgement Test for a range of grammatical properties Critical age II: accent Yeni-Komshian et al. 2000 study of native Korean speakers who came to US and learned English pronunciation of English: arrived 1-5: native-like 6-23: accented pronunciation of Korean: 1-7: accented 12-23: native-like E vs. K: 1-9 E better than K; 12-23 K better than E Conclusions Ample evidence for beneficial effects of bilingualism; little evidence for harm Armenian saying: aynkhan lezu khides, aynkhan marth es „how many languages you know is how much of a man you are‟ Bringing up a child to be bilingual is not as hard or as problematic as many people think ideal: early interaction with multiple speakers Survey of successful bilinguals suggests community, schooling less necessary Monolingualism is curable! Acquisition of L2 contrasts Pallier et al 1997 Catalan /e/:/ε/; Spanish only /e/ Catalan-Spanish bilinguals Sp = 20 bilinguals with Spanish- speaking parents Cat = 20 bilinguals with Catalan- speaking parents After exposure to Spanish leads to the formation of one [e] category, it appears to be difficult for the brain to learn two new phonetic categories which overlap with this one (see also Best et al. 1988) Smaller vocabulary? in a 1992 study of 11-year-old Turkish children, Anneli Schaufeli found that children who were bilingual in Turkish and Dutch fared significantly worse on vocabulary tests than children of similar socio-economic background who spoke only Turkish. The bilingual children got an average of 44% of the test items correct, whereas the monolingual children on average were correct 75% of the time. The Tower Game Bialystok 2002 two towers, one made of (smaller) legos and one of (bigger) duplos each block holds one family which tower holds more families? (7-lego vs 4-duplo) monolinguals master by 5; bilinguals by 4 Thierry and Wu 2007 Chinese–English bilinguals were required to decide whether English words presented in pairs were related in meaning or not they were unaware of the fact that half of the words concealed a character repetition when translated into Chinese. Whereas the hidden factor failed to affect behavioral performance, it significantly modulated brain potentials in the expected direction, establishing that English words were automatically and unconsciously translated into Chinese Executive processing The Simon Effect Instruction: if red, press the L key; if green, press the R key Congruent trial: stimulus appears on the same display side as the correct response key Incongruent trial: the position conflicts with the correct response incongruent trials trigger 20-30 ms longer response time Bilingual advantages in the Simon task have been reported for children (Martin & Bialystok, 2003), young adults (Bialystok, 2006), and middle-aged and older adults (Bialystok, Craik, Klein, & Viswanathan, 2004). Anti-aging For cognitive tasks, the increase in response time for subjects > 60 years old is more severe for monolinguals than for bilinguals (Bialystok et al. 2004, 2006). Bilingualism boosts cognitive performance in adults and slows the rate of decline in these processes with age.