Our BM group organized a webinar for bilingual families, to debunk myths and show what the science says about bilingualism
Last Thursday on the 29th of April, the Bilingualism Matters UGR team organized a webinar for the families of the elementary and preschools where we’ve been doing our workshops (Los Cármenes Elementary, Tierno Galván Elementary, Gómez Moreno Elementary, and Luna Preschool). It was a virtual dissemination meeting in which we talked about the central themes of bilingualism and answered the families’ most common doubts and questions. Professor Daniela Paolieri gave the presentation and debunked the biggest myths associated with bilingualism, basing her presentation on scientific evidence. For example, some of these myths such as “Bilinguals are those who have learned 2 languages since childhood” or “Bilinguals speak perfectly in their two languages” or “Bilingual children are less intelligent than their monolingual peers” or “Bilingual children will have a slower cognitive development than their monolingual peers due to having to juggle 2 languages”. Dr. Paolieri addressed each of these myths and presented scientific studies that debunk these notions.
The reality of the situation is that bilingualism is found in many different contexts. Each bilingual has an idiosyncratic experience and together all these experiences creative a rather diverse bilingual experience. Thanks to the scientific evidence that has been reported up until now, we know that bilingualism influences different cognitive processes such as flexibility and inhibition, which stem from the constant juggling of the two languages in the brain. In fact, it has been shown that bilinguals have abilities to control non-relevant information and are able to change perspective. In this sense, bilingual children tend to be able to relate to and understand that it is possible to have a different mental state. Another interesting fact that has been seen in bilinguals is that they tend to show signs of dementia 4 years later than monolingual individuals. In other words, older adults who know more than one language have a greater capacity for maintaining cognitive functions.
After Dr. Paolieri’s presentation, we entered an interesting debate between the participants of the webinar. Different experiences were exchanged, and doubts and questions were shared. “How should I approach bilingual parenting?” “At what age can I introduce the alphabet of a second language?” “Should I always speak to my child in the same language?” “My child understands me, but doesn’t speak to me in the language” “Will my child have difficulties in school and learn slower?” Dr. Paolieri commented that both monolingual and bilingual children go through the same important milestones in language development at about the same time. What is true is that bilingual children seem more sensitive than monolinguals to a wider range of phonetic contrasts.
Without a doubt, this was another enriching experience and we were able to disseminate science in an environment where families felt comfortable to express their preoccupations, and get their questions answered. After the webinar, the Bilingualism Matters UGR team created a group through the Telegram application for these families who are directly involved in the bilingual experience of their children. Our idea is to create a community of shared interests where experiences can be recounted and questions can be resolved. Are you interested in joining the group? Write us at our email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our Facebook (BilingualismMatters Ugr), or Tweet us (@BMatUGR) to get the link to join.