7th Feb 2013: How do children learn two languages? by Prof Antonella Sorace

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On 7th February 2013 Prof Ray Miller and Prof Antonella Sorace will be doing a talk at the Counting House in Edinburgh

Name of speaker and subject:

Antonella Sorace – Early and late bilingualism

Details of talk:

How do children learn two languages?
Any child can learn more than one language without any effort if these languages are heard frequently in natural situations. Children don’t need language lessons: they spontaneously understand how language works and the quickly learn to use the right language depending on who they talk to. Regular use of two languages makes children’s brain more flexible, improves their attention, and gives them a range of benefits that last a lifetime.

How do adults learn a second language?
Many people think it is difficult for adults to learn a second language well, but research shows that adults can reach near-native proficiency levels and become bilingual, even if they use partly different learning mechanisms from children. Adults better memory and reasoning skills are both an advantage and a disadvantage in learning a second language. The jury is still out as to whether late bilingualism brings some of the same benefits seen in bilingual children.
How does your native language change when you learn another language?
It is commonly thought that a native language. once learned in a normal way during childhood, remains the same for life. Research on proficient second language speakers, however, shows that a native language undergoes changes due to ‘attrition’ from regular use of a second language. These changes don’t affect knowledge of language but some of the uses of language in real time: attrition doesn’t mean loss.

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