Every year in December I review which articles were more popular with my readers, and this year would not be the exception.
In fifth place is Is it True That Babies Possess A Linguistic Advantage?.
The world’s nations are becoming more inclusive and we encounter more marriages where each partner speaks a different language. More children are being raised as bilinguals or multilinguals. How is it possible for them to cope with two or more languages?
Scientific studies have already proved that the best age to learn a language is before the teenage years. The human brain is specifically sensitive to linguistic input up to puberty. They state that our capacity to learn tend to diminish gradually over our lives.
It is said that babies’ brains are programmed to recognise the difference between all the 800 sounds that are part of the world’s languages. In other words, they are primed to learn any given language especially when you are aware that each language only uses about 40 language sounds (phonemes). But this amazing characteristic is lost before their first birthday. After this period, their brains specialise in the mother tongue, rendering them unable to recognise any other language that they are not familiar with.
Babies’ brains are programmed to recognise the difference between all the 800 sounds of the world's languages.
The first step in language learning is the ability to recognise the native language sounds. When a baby grows up listening to two or more languages, they learn to identify each of them as they can process the sounds of both languages. But there is a close relation with the quality and amount of input they receive in each language and their ability to use them when they become toddlers.
Imagine a household where English and French are spoken, if the infant hears more French words before age one, he/she will produce more French at age Three. So, it is seen that more experience in one language will determine its dominance over the other. But it is not set in stone. If the toddler was exposed to French because his/her Mum spoke French with him, when he/she starts attending Nursery and is exposed to more English the language dominance might change overtime.
So, as we can see it is easy for infants to learn a second language during what is called the ‘sensitive period’ where their brains are ready to learn a specific skill.
The sensitive period for learning the sounds of language is in the first year of life. And this will almost guarantee that later in life this toddler, if exposed continuously to two or more languages, will speak both at a native speaker level.
The sensitive period for learning the sounds of language is in the first year of life, and for word learning the second
The sensitive period for word learning is in the second year of life. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to learn a new language.
Monolingual children(who know or use a single language) lose some ability to recognise sounds in a foreign language around 10-12 months of age. But bilingual children hold on this ability for longer. Regular exposure to more than one language changes the sensitive period in the developing brain.
Scientists have also discovered other differences between monolingual and bilingual children.
Monolinguals and bilinguals use different strategies to learn new words.
When they reach 18 months of age, children learn new words fast.
Monolinguals and bilinguals use different learning strategies.
A monolingual child assumes that there is only one word for each object. Imagine that you present two objects, let’s say a knife and a fork and you ask him/her to grab the fork. The toddler knows which one a fork is, so by deduction he/she will presume that the other object is the knife and he/she will pick it up. He/she uses the process of elimination to learn the new word.
On the other hand, a bilingual child knows that there is more than one word for each object, so won’t be able to use this tactic.
As we see, when learning two languages, children are more aware of the different structures of language which make learning a third language easier for them.
There was also a concern that bilingual children would be at a disadvantage thinking that their growth in both languages would be impaired. But it has been proven that bilingual children do not fall behind their monolingual counterparts. They reach language milestones at the same time as monolinguals.
All these observations were made on simultaneous bilinguals, meaning that they learned the two languages from birth.
Sequential bilinguals – children who learn one language and then learn one or more languages later – use other learning strategies like observation and collection of information, use of their mother tongue for communication, transposition of native language rules to the new language they are studying
(Language transfer). The language transfer usually stops as they become more familiar with their new language.
Bilingual children also frequently mix words from different languages in the same sentence (code mixing), but they still know the difference between both languages. They mainly use code mixing when they do not know a word in the language they are currently speaking in order to fill the gap.This does not mean that these children have a language delay or that they are unable to keep the languages separated. This is a strategy used by adults and children alike to support communication.
Bilingual children have what is called cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to quickly switch between different concepts or rules and this is because they are trained to switch quickly from one language to another. They also have a flexible memory compared with their monolingual peers and this carries on over their lifespan.
We can conclude that babies do have a linguistic advantage because their brain is prepared to learn language early in life, making it the best time to introduce two or more languages to them. Bilingualism brings diverse advantages and one of them is that they become more tolerant.
In fourth place is 17 Career Paths For Language Lovers.
If you’re thinking in having a language degree, people around you might think that you have limited options after your graduation. They may think again. Language degrees can open opportunities in a myriad of different areas.
Here is a list of exciting potential jobs that you could apply to once you graduate.
These have their offices in various nations and employ thousand of people. You could be working in a foreign office thanks to your language skills combined with your business and management skills.
A liaison officer represents a company that has decided to cooperate with another. He/she acts as a bridge between the two organisations when interacting with his/her counterpart. They share information, manage expectations and schedules etc. In summary they build a relationship between the two parties.
It’s particularly interesting because in our globalised world joint ventures are more frequent and a bilingual can facilitate communication between the two parties. This job goes beyond being an interpreter because this role involves a more active participation.
Product Localisation Manager
They are employed by big multinationals to do market research and make sure that their products are placed in the foreign country with the right marketing and labelling. This job is for you if on top of your language expertise you possess a deep understanding of people’s culture and sensibilities.
Events managers plan events all over the world, joining together people from different countries and cultures.It’s likely that they’ll be speaking in more than one foreign language, especially if the event is happening in another country. An event coordinator that is bi- or multilingual would be a huge asset in many arenas, from businesses that have international relationships and are bringing everyone together in one room or an individual wanting to throw a party with international guests in attendance. Thinking on an even larger scale, world events, such as the Olympics, need employees that can speak more than one language to help accommodate the people from over 200 nations that come in for the games, whether as athletes, spectators, reporters and more.
import/export specialists are the individuals who perform the tasks of making sure products meet customs rules and regulations, helping clients with insurance and reducing their taxes and duties, and preparing and tracking the shipments. Import/export businesses are stationed all over the world, providing you with the opportunity to use both your native language and second language daily when communicating with clients and customs agents.
Often foreign languages are required especially for companies dealing with international clients.
Travel and Tourism
The travel and tourism industry is very exciting and is highly competitive.
Hotel management is the perfect career opportunity to live and work in another country – or your own country – and put your language degree to good use. If abroad, you’ll likely be using your second language with fellow hotel staff and locals most of the time, but your native tongue will also come in handy with guests from your home country. If you’re based at a hotel in your home country, try to find a position in a hotel that receives many international guests, particularly from countries that speak the language you studied in college. By working in a hotel, or even a hostel, you will get the most well-rounded use of your language degree, since you will be explaining many basic things to people, like the layout of the hotel and attractions nearby.
If you wish to see the complete list, please head over to the original article.
in third place is How To Easily Build Your English Vocabulary.
One of the big hurdles in language is vocabulary learning. We tend to freeze and consider it too much of a task. But it must not be seen as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It requires some effort, true, but with a method in place and consistency (yes, this word again), it is perfectly achievable.
Vocabulary learning should not be seen as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Here are some simple ways you can grow your English vocabulary.
Learn through reading.
Read everything you can get hold on: newspapers, newsletters, books, blogs, scientific and technical reports, emails, online and off-line information you may encounter. Read a lot. Most of the time, it will be easy to guess the meaning of these words in context. Pay attention to the words and phrases you don’t know, or which use is interesting, or funny, or relevant to you. Write them down in your vocabulary notebook.
To have a better chance of understanding what you’re reading, follow these suggestions:
First read the text quickly to find out what information it contains so that you can have a general idea of what it’s about.
You can then re-read the text and try to find out specific information you want to retrieve.
Don’t stop and look at a dictionary for the meaning of every word you don’t know. Carry on reading.
Learn “link words” called also cohesion markers and these are: also, therefore, except, unless, however, furthermore etc. They connect different parts of the writing and they give structure to the ideas expressed in the piece.
Choose texts which are not too difficult, where only 6-10 new words page are unknown to you.
Write down what you hear.
Watch movies, talk shows, news rounds, and keep an investigative ear to novel expressions you hear, or different ways a word or group of words are used. This is a very practical way to learn English. These should be registered as well in your vocabulary notebook. Watch Movies in English with no sub-titles in your mother tongue or only with the subtitles in English. This will help you pick up quickly the new words that are unknown to you. Listen to podcasts in English. Find topics that match your hobbies and do this activity regularly. There are lots of interesting YouTube videos in English that you can watch as well.
Make a list of words and expressions that are relevant to you. For example, if you’re interested in gardening, learn all the words and expressions related to this hobby. If you’re a Medical student, it is logical that you learn the English words and expressions exclusive to your profession. It is always easier to remember the vocabulary that you will find useful.
Learn the most frequent English words and expressions used daily.
You will hear and use them often. It is easier to learn these words with other words that usually accompanies them.
How to commit these new words to memory?
Make a study list
When you are writing the new English-vocabulary words in your notebook or phone, you’re making a list of all the words you need to know. The advantage is that they are in one place. You can keep adding new words, phrases and expressions as you come across them.
For every word you write, it is recommended that you write down its part of speech (verb, noun, adjective), although it’s optional, and its meaning.
This study list might be used to make flashcards.
The use of flashcards is very popular. They help you memorise quicker and more effectively than by making a list.
Use pocket cards that will be easier to carry with you for revision and study time on the go.On one side write the English word and on the other side the definition of the word or its translation. Also write the original sentence from which you have found the new word or make your own. Whenever you come across the new word in other writings or conversations, write the full expression down. If your aim is to grow your vocabulary fast, make a flashcard for similar words (synonyms) and opposite words(antonyms). You can also make digital flashcards and keep expanding your vocabulary pool by adding more with each new word. Try Anki and Memrise.
They are a fun way to evaluate your progress. Many English-word quizzes are available online. By taking quizzes you have a true idea if whether you know the word you’ve studied. You’ll also know exactly which words you need to go back to study. Besides, most online vocabulary quizzes are free. Try Free Rice, Quizlet or Cram.
You can test your knowledge by playing Scrabble or Vocabador. They’ll help you strengthen your knowledge of the new English words. On the other hand, they are fun and help you put the word into context which is the best way to commit it to your long-term memory.
Use the new vocabulary in conversations
It’s paramount to practice these new words or you will forget them. The more you use them, the better. Find native speakers to talk to or if not possible, practice with other English learners or join online groups and forums. Meetup is a website where you can look for language groups in your area and you can even create your own if there isn’t any.
Write in English
The easiest way is to keep a journal in English, write about different topics that interest you and subsequently have native English speakers review and make corrections. This will enhance not only your vocabulary but also your grammar knowledge. Lang-8 is a free website where you can write posts and you will get feedback from native speakers in exchange of your feedback for your mother tongue.
Have a learning pal.
Learning is more fun with a buddy. Find an online buddy who is learning English as well and let each other be accountable for your respective progress.
English practice groups on Whatsapp are more popular these days. The aim is a non-structured daily English practice where all sort of topics is covered.
To build your English vocabulary, you need constant targeted practice, periodic revisions of the new words to commit them to long-term memory, and constant use of these in your writing and daily conversations. Do this, and you’ll succeed.
In second place is How Thoughts Are Processed When Thinking In A Second Language.
In this globalised world where more people speak more than one language, scientists have tried to find out if we think and react the same way independently from the language people use.
Bilinguals/Multilinguals have always been at the centre of their thoughts when analysing the emotional effect of languages on people.
A group of scientists (Boaz Keysar, Sayri Hayakawa and Sun Gyu an) of Chicago's University, wanted to know if bilinguals would be more analytical and less emotional when making decisions in a foreign language.
They achieved a series of experiments on more than 300 people from the USA and Korea.
They picked 121 American students who learned Japanese. They were introduced to a hypothetical scenario: to fight a disease that would kill 600.000 people, Doctors could:
(1) either develop a medicine that saved 200.000 lives or
(2) a medicine with 33.3% chance of saving 600.000 lives (that means 66% chance of saving no lives).
80% of students chose the safe option (1).
When the problem was framed in terms of losing rather than saving lives, the safe option number dropped to 47%.
When they were asked the same question in Japanese, the safe option number was 40% regardless of how choices were framed. The role of instinct was significantly reduced.
When a decision is verbally framed as involving a gain, people prefer a sure outcome over a probability outcome.
When the situation is framed as involving losses, people sometimes prefer to gamble.
This is called the framing effect and it was originally investigated by Daniel Kahneman and team.
So, the framing effect was present in the native language and absent in the second language.
I would have thought that the stress of using a foreign language could have diminished the reasoning process in the students and pushed them to make emotional decisions, but the findings were different. They accepted the positive bet (2) more often when using their second language.
The researchers tried to see how language affects personal decision making. They chose a group of Korean students who were given a series of hypothetical low-loss and high-gain bets. When the bets were offered in Korean 57% took them. When offered in English (foreign language) 67% accepted the bet.
Again, it shows that deliberation is higher in the foreign language.
Keysar explains the results they obtained by saying:
" They make more bets in a foreign language because they expect to gain in the long run and are less affected by the typically exaggerated aversion to losses".
This confirms one more time that people tend to reason in a more logical way when using a foreign language, hence promoting analytical thoughts and reducing their emotional reactions, thus leading to better decision making.
In countless experiments, researchers tend to consider three things when they wanted to evaluate decision-making in a second language:
Losses gain and risks.
Cause and effect.
Regarding decision-making, it has been proven in countless occasions that people are more conservative in their decisions when thinking in their mother tongues.
They evaluate losses as greater than gain and prefer not to take any risk in their mother tongue. This thought-process is called risk aversion.
On the other hand, when faced with the same problem in their second language, they take decisions based on logic and are willing to take more risks.
They are less influenced by their emotions.
Many bilinguals report feeling less emotionally connected in their second language and this can be translated in various ways. Because of their reduce emotional resonance to the language, they experience less restraint in using swear words or speaking about highly sensitive topics without much inhibition, in their non-native language.
One of many explanations is that you depict things in your mind’s eye in a less vivid way. Your imagination diminishes when using your second language, affecting your ability to visualise future scenarios.
When dealing with moral dilemma, once again people use more their rational thinking in their second language, due to the following: when speaking a second language, we need to block out our native language, making it easier to block out intuitive thinking as well when using that language. Brain imaging research shows that the same areas of the brain are activated both in second-language use and in rational thought. Scientists have concluded that, once second-language speakers activate their brain-inhibitor centre, it inhibits their intuitions and emotions as well. So, as a result, they make more rational decisions when using their second language.
Next time you ought to take a vital decision, it would be better for you to analyse the problem in your second language.
There are more positive effects of reduced emotional resonance. In therapy, for example, when confronted with traumatic experiences, bilinguals benefit from being able to approach things in a less emotionally involved way by switching languages.
Now that we are inundated in the news with Brexit and pictures of the European leaders and their pragmatic views about the whole affair, it sparkles the thought that their meeting have been taking place in the lingua franca, aka English, and this may be at the root of not reaching any agreement so far.
And the winner is, in first place, How To Overcome Procrastination For Good.
Procrastination is one of the great evils of our society. Procrastination can affect our career and life and can cause us all sort of problems.
What is procrastination?
The word procrastinate comes from the Latin roots ‘pro’ meaning ‘for’ and ‘crast’ meaning ‘tomorrow’. You’re literally postponing your brilliant responses, accomplishments, celebrations and successes until tomorrow…or the next day…. or the day after that.
Why do people procrastinate?
It is a way of avoiding some unpleasant internal feelings associated with the work at hand. For example, if a task causes you to feel anxious you will find a way to keep it at bay. You might not be fully aware of this, but this might be working at a subconscious level.
Type of tasks that can cause procrastination
1- Tasks where one lacks skills in.
For example, if maths has always been difficult for you to understand, it’s obvious that you will do whatever is in your power to avoid this five-page maths homework that makes you feel stupid. In languages it might be the list of vocabulary and phrases that you must memorise and that you keep forgetting even though you've been revising it for a while.
2- Tasks that you find tedious or uninteresting.
Tasks like tidying the house or your room will be postponed on behalf of more interesting ones like social media browsing.
3- Long-term tasks.
These are without a clear deadline, and they can be difficult to achieve as well. They bring the feeling of frustration and uncertainty.
4- Unpleasant tasks.
like taking Grandma do the shopping. You will try to find the way to wiggle yourself out of it.
5- Tasks that feel too much to handle.
If the task has multiple sub parts, it seems that it is a never-ending assignment, and completion seems almost impossible.
Procrastination besides eroding your self-esteem, creates a dangerous split in your mind.
When you procrastinate, you’re always thinking about two things: what you’re doing now, and what you think you should be doing.
The procrastinator toxic cycle
When a procrastinator puts off a task, he distracts himself with an activity to keep himself busy and to gain some sense of accomplishment. But he/she soon realises that this feel-good factor does not last long and at the same time feels guilty for not having done the important task in the first place. The internal struggle starts again, and the phase of panic appears. Panic is a familiar emotion to the procrastinator. It is often the only thing that can make him start the original task. However, because he/she has procrastinated, he/she will have less time and fewer resources to hand. He/she may turn in a project on time, but it will be rushed and of low standard. Then, he may blame himself even more for not having done as good a job as he was capable of.
The five types of procrastinators
To fix the problem at its root, you must identify the type of procrastination you personally experience. Let’s have a look at the triggers for different types.
Being perfect is the pleasure perfectionists want, but often this leads to them being too scared to show any imperfections. Because of this, they frequently fail to finish things, as they are looking for the perfect approach. Tasks end up never being completed. Instead of finishing something, perfectionists are always editing the task.
An Ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage.
An ostrich prefers to stay in the dreaming stage. That way, they don’t have to work for real, and deal with any negativity or stress.
Dreaming gives them a false sense of achievement, because they envision big plans in their mind. These plans stay most of the time as dreams, and they never accomplish anything.
They prefer to avoid doing anything to prevent bad things from happening. They have developed a fear of making mistakes or doing anything wrong. They make few mistakes, but they accomplish nothing.
They are those who believe that deadlines can push them to do better. Instead of having a schedule to complete their work, they prefer to enjoy time doing their own things before the deadline comes around.
They lack the ability to prioritise their work. They do what they feel they should do, rather than thinking through what they really need to do.
Once you identify your procrastination type you will be able to find ways to eliminating your procrastination triggers.
Simple fixes for every day procrastinators
If you’ve been a procrastinator for quite a while, it will be difficult for you to assess when you’re procrastinating because it has become an intricate part of yourself. Besides you justify avoiding the important tasks by always being busy doing less important ones.
Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here are a few simple advice to help you overcome procrastination.
1- Break your work into simple steps.
By doing so, you’re avoiding feeling overwhelmed. Break the task into little parts, then focus on one part at a time. If you still procrastinate, break the tasks furthermore. Soon, your task will be so simple that it will be achievable.
2- Create a detailed timeline with specific deadlines
Break down your project (as described in 1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know that you must finish each task by a certain date. Break your goals into monthly, weekly and daily tasks and all with deadlines.
3- Change your environment
Changing your work space can help you be more productive. Find a spot that makes you feel inspired.
4- Get rid of distractions
Switch your phone and other devices off and stay away from your emails until the work is done.
5- Hang out with people who inspire you to act
Identify the people(friends or colleagues) who are action takers and trigger you. Be in their company more often. Soon you will inherit their drive and spirit too.
6- Get a buddy
Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun, especially if she has her own set of goals. Both will hold each other accountable to goals and plans.
7- Tell others about your goals
Tell your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about them.
8- Revisit your goals
If you’ve been procrastinating for quite a while, it might mean that there’s a misalignment between what you want and what you’re currently doing. You might have outgrown your goals, but not change them. Revisiting them will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your goals.
9- Keep it simple
Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. There’s never a perfect time to start your planned tasks. Remember that the moment is now. As it is said out there “better done than perfect”.
10- Take action
Planning is good, but if you don’t act nothing will change. The only way to move forward is by acting.
Whatever you’re procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, do it.
These were your five favourite readings for the year, if you didn't download the freebies for each article, you can still do it by clicking on the links.
Here's for a successful 2020 jam-packed with strategies for better language learning!