Title: Bilingualism is the norm, not the exception: How using two or more languages shapes the mind and the brain and reflects society itself
In the last two decades there has been an upsurge of research on the bilingual mind and brain. Although the world is multilingual, only recently have cognitive and language scientists come to see that the use of two or more languages provides a unique lens to examine the neural plasticity engaged by language experience. But how? It is now uncontroversial to claim that the bilingual’s two languages are continually active, creating a dynamic interplay across the two languages. But there continues to be controversy about the consequences of that cross-language exchange for how cognitive and neural resources are recruited when a second language is learned and used actively and whether native speakers of a language retain privilege in their first acquired language. In the earliest months of life, minds and brains are tuned differently when exposed to more than one language from birth. That tuning has been hypothesized to open the speech system to new learning. But when initial exposure is to a home language that is not the majority language of the community, the experience common to heritage speakers, the value of bilingualism has been challenged, in part because we are lacking an adequate account of the variation in language experience. In this talk, I illustrate the ways that recent studies have shown that the minds and brains of bilinguals are inherently complex and social, taking into account the variation in contexts in which the two languages are learned and used, and shaping the dynamics of cross-language exchange across the lifespan.
Dr. Judy Kroll is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Language Science at the University of California, Irvine.
NACS Seminars are free and open to the public.