Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Problem solving and bilingualism.

  - Why did the cat bark? 
- He wanted to learn a second language. 
(A children joke).
NYTimes publishes an interview with Ellen Bialystok, a neuroscientist who has spent almost 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind. Her recent work shows that, among other things, bilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms.

I also find it interesting that researchers see differences in physical brain activity when mono- and bilinguals solve the same problems:

...when we look in their [bilinguals'] brains through neuroimaging, it appears like they’re using a different kind of a network that might include language centers to solve a completely nonverbal problem. Their whole brain appears to rewire because of bilingualism.

On the problem-solving side, I find that using abstract system-level language instead of a specific engineering or technology jargon helps me and my students approach the problem from a different perspective. I call this language "Inventorese." Maybe it should count as my 5th one :)

Finally, long-held common sense belief on the subject turned out to be wrong:

Until about the 1960s, the conventional wisdom was that bilingualism was a disadvantage.

tags: brain, mind, communications, psychology, creativity, system, five element analysis, health, bias

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