The Linguist

The Linguist 57,2 – April/May 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 14 of 35 APRIL/MAY The Linguist 15 FEATURES perspective, the most important aspect was the regular oral and written use of multiple languages in the learning environment. If you are a school leader or teacher in doubt about how to develop plurilingual approaches and a Healthy Linguistic Diet, the Scoil Bhride ( case study shows how it can be done for the benefit of all: multilingual and monolingual children, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff. On the other end of the spectrum, language learning is becoming an increasingly popular activity in later life and, in particular, in retirement. It plays an important role in University of the Third Age activities and has led to the emergence of thriving language cafés, such as Yaketyyak in Edinburgh (, and projects such as Lingo Flamingo. Given the extremely modest effects of current pharmacotherapy in dementia, it can be expected that this sector might grow significantly in the near future. An important feature that our approach shares with physical exercise and healthy diet is the insight that what counts is not a single factor – a certain type of movement, a single miraculous nutrient, a magic language or 'optimal' learning strategy. What counts is diversity and balance: being exposed to a number of different languages, listening to them, understanding and speaking them, using them in everyday life, learning to read and write in them – not necessarily all at the same time. Our vision is to use the cognitive benefits argument as a way of overcoming language hierarchies, directly linked to language loss for many children and adults who do not see the value of home languages, such as Bengali, Arabic and Polish. Whereas economic and cultural arguments for language learning are ruled by volatile and ever-changing market demands for certain languages, or their historical prestige, the cognitive benefits argument, by definition, grants all languages the same value. The hundreds of languages spoken in the UK (233 in London alone), as well as across most of the modern world, offer an enormous linguistic potential. The current wave of immigrants could be seen as an opportunity to increase linguistic diversity rather than as a threat to monolithic monolingualism. However, in order to ensure that individuals – as well as society as a whole – benefit, we need to create an environment in which learning, maintaining and using this immense linguistic richness is encouraged and supported (including an education system in which exams and qualifications are not only available in high-prestige languages). A better awareness of the health benefits of language learning could contribute to such a change in attitude. Our goal is to make the evidence on these benefits available and accessible to all stakeholders. Our open-access website is one of the steps in that direction. Please visit and get in touch with your comments and suggestions: The footnotes provide links to much of the recent research on the benefits of bilingualism, and have been highlighted as a useful guide. Notes 1 See 'Rethinking Language Learning in Europe'; 2 See 3 See, e.g. Bialystok, E (2009) 'Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent'. In Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 12:3-11; Kovács AM & Mehler J (2009) 'Cognitive Gains in 7-month-old Bilingual Infants'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; 4 Bak, T H, Vega-Mendoza, M & Sorace, A (2014) 'Never too Late? An advantage on tests of auditory attention extends to late bilinguals'. In Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 485; 5 Alladi S et al (2013) 'Bilingualism Delays Age at Onset of Dementia, Independent of Education and Immigration Status. In Neurology, 81,1938-1944 6 Alladi S et al (2016) 'Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Outcome after Stroke'. In Stroke, 47 7 Ramakrishnan S et al (2017) 'Comparative Effects of Education and Bilingualism on the Onset of Mild Cognitive Impairment'. In Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 44, 222-231 8 Paplikar, A et al (2018) 'Bilingualism and the Severity of Poststroke Aphasia'. In Aphasiology, 1-15 9 Bialystok, E (1999), 'Cognitive Complexity and Attentional Control in the Bilingual Mind'. In Child Development 10 Bak T H et al (2016) 'Novelty, Challenge, and Practice: The impact of intensive language learning on attentional functions'. In PLOS One, 11(4) 11 Mehmedbegovic, D & Bak, T H (2017) Healthy Linguistic Diet: The value of linguistic diversity and language learning across the lifespan. Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS); [Websites checked 16/3/18]

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