Why Being Bilingual Makes the Brain Stronger Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1813 Words
Date:  2022-06-19


The United States is populated with immigrants from all over the world since the historic times. Parents nowadays have taught their children to speak only in English as their primary language as soon as they are in the United States (Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra 35). Parents have come to believe that their child should speak English to become American and that English is the getaway of becoming part of the American society.in recent years, these trends have changed according to Kroll, Dussias, Bice, and Perrotti (p378), because parents who are raising bilingual children have seen the benefits of bilingualism and it is getting recognized in the wider society. This trend has increasingly become apparent in the everyday life, and scientists have become interested in understanding the bilingual brain. The three discoveries about bilingualism that has been developed in the current research, by Kroll et al. (p378), include the facts that first, both languages are active when bilinguals listen to a speech, read words in either of the languages and plan a speech in either of the two words.

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The second discovery is that not only does the native language influences the second language but, the second language later influences the native language once the bilingual becomes fluent in the other language (Kroll et al., 378). The third discovery is that the use if one or more languages has consequences that are beyond the language processing domain-general cognitive functions. The consequences are seen to be beneficial to a bilingual individual at points in life when they feel vulnerable, especially during early development, late adulthood, especially when cognitive decline places or the presence of a pathological condition places a great demand on the cognitive system and the neural control (Kroll et al., 379).

According to the article by Mouthin, Annoni and Khateb, (266) language define the set of modalities, for human communication and that, the development of wide variety of languages in the world is as a result of the existence of different ethnic groups and geographical regions. Development of communication, between individuals of different groups as well as the globalization processes, such as politics, culture, and immigration among others has highlighted the special need for humans to develop the ability to learn and speak several languages. According to Mouthin et.al., bilingualism plays a crucial role in the construction of societies as it affects almost all the nations of the world including all the social classes and the age groups (266). Research indicates that more than half of the world's population have the ability to speak more than one language because globalization has broken borders in different parts of the world, for instance, Europe (Bialystok et al. 89). Having the ability to speak more than one language has several benefits in the increasingly globalized world, and this paper seeks to discuss the reasons why being bilingual makes the brain stronger.

The definition of bilingualism

Bloomfiled as simultaneous learning of two languages during childhood (Mouthona and Khateb 266) developed the definition of bilingualism in 1935. In a less conservative definition, it implies the ability to speak or express oneself in one of the three language abilities for instance comprehension, speaking or writing in another language other than mother-tongue. The other common definition views it as the ability to express oneself in mother-tongue and as a second language in daily life. It is critical to distinguish between bilingualism and bilingual behavior, and it is determined mainly through the communicative context that the person expresses themselves to others (Mouthona ,Annonia, and Khateb 266). To distinguish bilingual behavior, Grosjean in his research identifies ways that depend on the ability of an individual to speak to a monolingual or bilingual person. In the monolingual mode, the individual identifies a language and deactivates the other completely, and in this way, they force themselves to stay in the interlocutor language (Bialystok et al. 89). In the bilingual mode, an individual chooses a language of reference as the function of the preferred language. They keep a high activation level of the other language as a function of need, such that when the interlocutors are equal they have the same L1 and L2 and they are able to mix both languages and switch from one language to the next (Mouthona and Khateb 267).

The concept of bilingualism

A person who is proficient in two languages speaks in one language at a time. This is accomplished because the person's language system must first select the words from the target language, and those that are not from the target are ignored (van Heuven, Dijkstra and Hagoort 2706). In most occasions, bilingual persons select the intended language successfully, but the words from the non-target language could intrude, and the cross-language speech error could arise. This observation points out that bilingual brain words that arise from different language often compete with one another, and such interference results in language conflicts (van Heuven et al. 2706). Handling language conflict occurs in two ways among the bilinguals, first, words of both languages are activated and an effective mechanism selects the words of the target language out of the set of the activated target and the non-target language. The other way is that there could be a mechanism that blocks the non-target language completely and it happens such that the non-target language representations are blocked and not activated at all. According to van Heuven et al., a completely blocked non-target language assumption is indistinguishable from the specific language lexical access (2706).

The activation process of the first and the second language among the bilinguals as well as the language conflict occurrences could depend on the language combinations that are often specific and the proficiency of the bilinguals. Studies indicate that when one is switching from one language to another, interference occurs because both languages are required for that specific task. A picture naming task study carried out by Rodriguez-Fornells et al. in 2005 as mentioned by Heuven et al. (2706), showed that non-target interference in language, and in the case, both languages were required by the task because picture naming alternated between the first and the second language. Studies on behavior indicate that non-target language is activated and cross-language occurrences appear in tasks and situations that are monolingual.

Language Conflict

Language conflict occurrence is often predicted by models of word processing which assume that parallel word activation from different languages is an integrated lexicon that contains worlds from these languages. According to one of such models as predicted by Dijkstra and van Heuven in 2002, mentioned in Heuven et al. (2706), distinction with regards to word identification system should be made with full access to an integrated multilingual lexicon and a decision system that regulates the control and the selection for a given action. This model also indicates that a visual letter string activates the semantic, orthographic as well as phonological representations of both languages in parallel form and that these representations are in competition with each other in the identification system of the words in a bilingual person. A stimulus-based language conflict could arise accordingly in the word identification system due to competition between the activated representations from the two languages according to Heuven et al. (2706).

The other source of language conflict is known to arise at the level of the secession system especially when the response is selected based on the activated word identification system that is represented. An example is that when an individual has to make a decision on whether a given word belongs to one language or the other, a response conflict could arise, when these words, both the target and the non-target language, are simultaneously activated and are connected to different responses. These represent 2 potential language conflict sources; as either stimulus based or response-based or response-based conflict in decision system that give guidance to the selection of an action. In their study Heuven et al. (2707), utilized the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as behavioral measurements to investigate both the stimulus-based as well as response-based language conflict during visual word recognition in bilinguals. Their results from behavioral as well as the functional magnetic resonance imaging data showed that the bilingual processing leads to language conflict among the bilinguals in their brains even if their task requires the knowledge of the target language (Heuven et al. 2713). The findings indicate that bilingual brains cannot avoid language conflict occurrences, because of the fact that the target and the non-target languages are activated automatically during reading (Heuven et al. 2714).

Bilingual Language Development and Cognitive Advantages in Infancy

Bilingualism is a norm in many countries, and in 2006, the European Union released statistics indicating that about 50% of all the people living in the Europen Union, were able to hold a conversation using a second language, and about 30% spoke a third language in their daily interactions (Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra 37). Contrary, in the United States, the census indicated that 80% of its population spoke only English in their homes (Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra 37). One of the reasons for such contradicting results could be the link of low-status with the non-English mother tongue that is common in the United States, thus causing families as well as institutions to suppress the lower status language. One of the salient reasons that were discussed by King and Fogle, in their study in 2006 mentioned by Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra (38) is that switching back and forth between two languages, also known as code-switching among the bilinguals, was interpreted as a sign of confusion. According to research by De Houwer, in 1990 mentioned by Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra (38), the ideology behind learning the second language, affects the developmental milestones of language and speech among bilingual children is a misconception that has continuously persisted among the educators and parents. Recent empirical studies, however, indicated that monolingual and bilingual abilities did not differ in the achievement of the developmental milestones such as babbling.

Speech Production

Studies regarding speech production among the bilingual infants and also children indicate that they are similar to their monolingual counterparts in the achievement of the developmental milestone, but language acquisition, on the other hand, begins with speech perception long after the production of the first word. Research indicates that exposure of an infant to a particular language reduces their abilities to discriminate speech sounds that are foreign to that language (Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra 38). Infants that are about six months of age are able to mark out the differences among the phonetics that are applied in the world's languages. A good example is the fact that both American and Japanese infants are equally good at distinguishing the acoustic properties that distinguish the sounds, "la" and "ra", when they are six months old, but the Japanese infants often lose the ability simply because "la" is not part of their language as they grow older. Researches have interpreted this evidence as the neural commitment during the first stages of life, with infants showing the increasing sensitivity of the native speech sounds and decreasing sensitivity to the non-native sounds (Nairan, and Garcia-Sierra 38...

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Why Being Bilingual Makes the Brain Stronger Essay. (2022, Jun 19). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/why-being-bilingual-makes-the-brain-stronger-essay

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