Bosley, the Language Bear

Bilingualism Sharpens the Mind – An Article from the New York Times

Below is an article from the New York Times about bilingualism and the affect on cognitive capabilities as we age, and how being bilingual actually acts to sharpen your mind!  It’s a great article in the form of an interview with Dr. Ellen Bialystok.


The Bilingual Advantage

Published: May 30, 2011

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.

Read more at the New York Times

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Bosley’s Christmas Giveaway! – Win the very FIRST copy of the Language Bear’s new book!

Have you heard about the Language Bear’s Christmas giveaway? Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll get a free PDF download of the Language Bear’s very first publication! PDF versions of the book are now available in Spanish and Italian!

Not only that, but one lucky winner will receive a free hard-copy of Bosley Sees the World, the 20-page full-color dual language book in Spanish. This is the story of a small bear who is excited to see and experience everything around him.

This story encourages children to take on new challenges and helps to build confidence when experiencing new things. The Adventures of Bosley Bear will be a series of dual language books, each of them will be written in English as well as Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and so on. Certain corresponding words are highlighted in both languages to help give a better understanding. And there’s a list of vocabulary words in the back to help you and your child learn.

Designed to Teach

The Language Bear’s dual-language books are self-directed learning tools and are specifically designed to help young children better understand foreign words and phrases. The non-invasive teaching methods used in this book allow children to learn at their own pace and enjoy the learning process. These methods include:

  • Repeat words
  • Simple phrases
  • Opposites
  • Highlighted vocab words
  • Contextual learning
  • Corresponding imagery

And reading with your child is a great way to learn new words yourself!

This book is still undergoing publication now, but I hope you enjoy your free PDF version and the winner of the giveaway will be announced on facebook on Dec 15th!