¿De dónde eres?

English Translation Below:

Por Erica Mirochnik, Creadora de Mamás por el mundo

Mamasporelmundo.com

Facebook.com/Mamasporelmundo

 

Una de las preguntas más frecuentes que les hacen a mis hijos, y a muchos otros niños también es “¿de dónde eres?”

Para la mayoría de los niños esto es algo sencillo de responder. Para los míos es algo más complejo.

La respuesta más común a esta pregunta es que somos del lugar donde nacimos. En el caso de muchas familias como la mía, mis hijos han nacido en un país que no es el de sus padres y en el que tampoco viven en este momento.

Entonces la respuesta se vuelve algo más larga que decir “soy de…” Comienza una larga serie de explicaciones en las que cuentan que sus padres se han mudado varias veces, que ellos han nacido en uno de esos tantos lugares de residencia pero que ya hace un tiempo que no viven allí.

La versión de respuesta corta es decir que son del país de los padres, cosa que muchos mencionan para evitar dar tantos detalles de su vida y la de su familia.

Para muchas familias es prácticamente impensable la idea de haberte ido a vivir lejos de tu lugar de origen. Sin ir más lejos, hasta hace no mucho tiempo, la gente pasaba su vida entera sin moverse de su ciudad o de su pueblo.

Esto hace que comunicarse con gente en otras latitudes sea el primer desafío que enfrentan estas familias que se han mudado. Y no es sólo una cuestión de cuán bien sabes el idioma local, lo importante es pensar como comunicas con quienes te rodean. Pensar si utilizas el segundo idioma meramente para trabajo y cuestiones prácticas o si has podido establecer vínculos que te permiten compartir algo más íntimo de tu vida con tu nuevo entorno.

En los niños sucede de una forma más natural, ya que a través del juego que es un lenguaje en el que se sienten muy cómodos, los niños pueden expresarse de diferentes formas, pero sobretodo utilizan el segundo idioma para interactuar de manera natural.

Los adultos tenemos nuestros propios obstáculos al respecto, a veces reales y a veces autoimpuestos. Creemos que no sabemos lo suficiente o que tenemos un acento muy fuerte, y nos limitamos la capacidad de interactuar. Buscamos muchas excusas por diferentes razones y así nos privamos de uno de los mayores beneficios que tiene vivir en otro país que es conocer la cultura y la gente del lugar.

Entonces volviendo a “¿de dónde eres?”, creo que es importante manifestar tu origen de diferentes maneras y a través de una segunda lengua abrirte a un mundo de posibilidades donde no solo te beneficias tu, sino tu interlocutor.

Cuando un niño cuenta que ha nacido en otra ciudad genera curiosidad, y cuando un adulto lo cuenta puede generar un diálogo interesante.

En ese momento lo que importa es de dónde vienes y a dónde has llegado, más allá de tus motivos. Estas aquí y ahora con todo tu bagaje, es el equipaje que ha venido contigo y del que debes estar orgulloso para poder compartirlo.

 

 

 “Where are you from?”

By Erica Mirochnik, Creator of Mamás por el mundo

Mamasporelmundo.com

Facebook.com/Mamasporelmundo

 

One of the most frequently asked questions that my children, and many other children are asked is  “Where are you from?”

For most children this is something simple to answer. For mine it is more complex.

The most common answer to such a question is that they are from the place where they were born. For international and expatriate families like mine, our children were born in a country that is neither where their parents are from nor the country where they currently live.

Then the answer becomes somewhat longer to say “I’m from …” and thus begins a long series of explanations which explains that their parents have moved several times, that they were born in one of those many places of residence, and that it has been a long time since they lived there.

A shorter version of the answer is that they are from the country of their parents, which is commonly used so as to avoid giving many personal and family details.

For much of society,  it is an unthinkable idea to live far from your place of origin. Without going any further, until not long ago, people spent their entire lives without leaving their town or village.

This makes communicating with people in other latitudes the first challenge faced by these families who have moved. And it is not only a question of how well you know the local language but also how well you are able to communicate with those around you. Think about if you use the second language merely for work and for answering practical questions or if you have also been able to establish language connections that allow you to share more intimate details of your life with those in your new environment.

For children language learning happens more naturally, because already like learning a game, a new language will feel very comfortable.  Children can express themselves in different ways, but more than anything, children learn to interact in the second language more naturally.

As adults, we encounter our own obstacles, sometimes real and sometimes self – imposed. Either, we do not know enough or we have a very strong accent, and we limit our ability to interact. We look for many excuses for different reasons, and by doing so, we deprive ourselves of one of the greatest benefits that come from living in another country– that is the culture and the locals.

Now back to “where are you from ?” I think it’s important to deliver your origin in a variety of ways; and through the use of your second language you can begin to open up a world of possibilities where you not only benefit but also the person to whom you speak benefits.

Curiosity is generated when one learns that a child is born in another city; and when an adult shares this with others, interesting dialogue can develop.

And at that moment, what becomes important is where you come from and where have you arrived, more than motives.  You are here with all of your baggage, it is it the luggage that has come with you and you should be proud to share it with others.

5 Tips for Using Bilingual Books in the Classroom & Home

Bilingual books are a great resource for bridging two different languages. They offer educators the chance to teach students in the school language while providing a tool for home language development and parental involvement among dual language families.

Studies have shown that supporting a child’s home language is very important for enhancing academic performance, even in cases where the language spoken at school is not the same as the language spoken at home. Children do better in school when their parents read to them, communicate, and engage in daily tasks and activities in the language in which they are most comfortable.

Below are 5 tips on how parents and educators can use bilingual books in the classroom and at home to improve literacy skills and encourage cultural appreciation.

Read bilingual books in English and show students written text in a second language.

Teachers or parents can use bilingual stories to familiarize children with other languages that use the Roman alphabet as well as languages with different letters and symbols, such as Hindi and Korean. This way, children can better understand that written speech and letters have varied forms.

Read a bilingual book in the school language and then read it in the home language.

In addition to supporting a child’s overall language development, reading at home with parents strengthens the child-parent bond and helps the parent teach about their shared culture and language. Teachers can read a book in English at school and then lend it to a child to read at home, or parents with dual-language skills can read the book in both languages.

Read culturally relevant bilingual books.

When educators read multicultural books that show texts from other parts of the world, they are imparting knowledge about various cultures, customs and traditions. This promotes a climate of cultural diversity and tolerance.

Engage children with question and answer sessions and discussion in both the school and home languages.

Bilingual books can offer the chance to discuss the same subjects in two separate languages. Teachers can initiate communication in the school’s language, while parents can do the same in their home language. Children can be sent home with a list of suggested topics for discussion to use with parents at home.

Parents or other volunteers read a bilingual book in the non-dominant language in school.

Teachers can invite parents to participate in reading bilingual books in their home language to the class. The teacher can then read the book in the school language. This enhances the bonds between the class and the family/community. It also makes parents feel welcome and provides an opportunity for them to share their expertise. If parents are unable to come to the classroom, other teachers or community members who know the home language can be invited to read in the second language.

These are just a few examples of ways that teachers and parents can use bilingual books at school and at home. The aim is to build a child’s overall literacy and communication skills, ensure that they are proud of their culture and language, and help them become understanding, multicultural citizens.

 

Author: Anneke Forzani is President and Founder of Language Lizard LLC, which offers bilingual books, dual-language audio products and multilingual resources to teachers, librarians and bilingual families. Language Lizard also provides free multicultural lesson plans to promote tolerance and cultural understanding in diverse classrooms.

 

 

A Look Inside an Immersion Preschool

By Aileen Passariello-McAleer, Co-founder of Mama-LinguaMamaLingua_Header_1200

An Interview with Marytere Ciccone, Co-Founder and Program Creator of INIC International Immersion Center

 INIC International Immersion Center is a Spanish-immersion preschool in Austin, Texas. The school’s founder, Marytere Ciccone, has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood education and professional development for teachers. She opened INIC in 2012.

Marytere Ciccone’s career began in Mexico, where she worked with children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, ADHD, ADD and language delay. When she moved to the United States, her interest in language development broadened. Here in the U.S., Marytere wanted to raise her own children in a bilingual environment, but discovered a lack of resources for bilingual education. At the same time, she observed a loss of language and culture in her new community, where Spanish was not being fostered at home, within the schools or in the community at large.

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From her research and experience in education and curriculum development, Marytere knew that the earlier children are exposed to language, the better the results. As recent studies have shown, young children are wired to learn any language, especially from 0-3 years of age. Pathways that are created during this period of rapid growth continue to develop over a lifetime, and so do the chances of successful language acquisition.

“Teaching children a second language early in life is essential to brain stimulation,” says Marytere. “A second language builds brain circuits and has a major impact on overall cognitive development, logical processes and mathematics.” In an effort to take advantage of this prime period of development, and in response to the need for formal Spanish education for children within Austin, Marytere opened INIC.

Marytere co-authored the programs used in the INIC curriculum, which are based on research that shows neurological development is optimal when there’s interactivity between the right and left sides of the brain. Since each hemisphere is responsible for different processes, the curriculum ensures that children engage in multisensory activities so that whole-brain integration can occur. In early childhood education, this takes the form of integrated sensory, motor and linguistic stimuli. The curriculum is staged to meet the needs of children from 0-6 years of age, and materials are selected according to individual development.

 

In addition to its intensive Spanish immersion curriculum, INIC offers students an introduction to Mandarin. The school also offers Spanish-language summer camps and extracurricular activities, with instruction in swimming, soccer and gymnastics. For Marytere, parental involvement is crucial. “You get better results when parents are involved,” she says.

 While Marytere has met her community’s need for a high quality Spanish language immersion preschool, many parents want to know what to do after INIC. For her part, she’s had success with AISD’s Becker Elementary School and Sunset Valley Elementary School. Her children are enrolled in the schools’ Two-Way Dual Language program, where they study in both English and Spanish. And while Marytere recognizes that every family may not have access to similar offerings, parents who give their children an early start in a second language give a gift that (science shows) lasts a lifetime.

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Be Multicultural and Bilingual

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Summer camps are in full swing and last month my daughter spent three weeks in a Spanish camp learning about Spain’s diverse regions, history and culture.  She loved everything she studied; yet what truly captivated her most of all was the Flamenco music and dance.  She and her fellow classmates learned a few components of Flamenco dance in camp and even made castanets out of cardboard and bottle caps.  Seizing upon this multicultural bilingual opportunity, a few of us took our children to see a live professional Flamenco performance by Flamencura at a local Spanish venue, Malaga Tapas Wine Bar.  Both children and adults were entranced by the impassioned music and beautiful performance.  However, for the children, the experience personally connected and intertwined with their bilingual experience of learning Spanish culture.  The children danced  around their table and my daughter even had a chance to get up on stage with the performers.  With their spirits lifted and their souls enriched, I knew that this experience would stay with them for a lifetime.  In essence, it was one more step in becoming multicultural in addition to bilingual.

As language learners of a second language, it can be easy to simply focus on learning the language and to neglect learning about the culture or cultures of the language.  After all, being bilingual does not in itself mean bicultural or multicultural.  Being multicultural means that you have a more intricate understanding of more than one culture and have the ability to operate easily within each. When you incorporate cultural learning in language learning you then gain a myriad of benefits in addition to those that come from learning a second language.

 shutterstock_106940168The top 5 benefits of being multicultural:

Learning about other cultures…

  • 1. Can help you become a better observer of culture in general.

Becoming an observer and learner of cultures, you gain insight into similarities and differences and can better understand the historical contributions thereof.  I found this especially true for myself.  I grew up in Appalachia Kentucky but spent most of my young adult life in Mexico.  I later married into an Indian  family.  At first glance, these three cultures could not appear more distinct in terms of language, traditions, clothes, music, religious practices, etc.  However, I very quickly recognized many similarities and traditions in each which enabled me to move through each culture with ease.  Not only that,  the more I learned about the cultural traditions and practices in Mexico and India, the better I also understood those of my own heritage culture in Appalachia.  In effect, learning a second or third culture enables you to become a better observer of culture in general by creating context which allows you to distinguish similarities and differences and to better understand the origin of those cultural traditions.

  • 2. Enable you to gain a better sense of self.shutterstock_213678385

Whether the culture you study is your heritage culture or you learn more about your heritage culture from being a better observer of culture, the gain is the same.  By better understanding your heritage culture, you can better connect the historical practices and traditions of the past with that of the present and in turn develop a stronger sense of self awareness. This sense of self  is connected with a sense of pride in who you are and where you come from and the special attributes that bind you and your family with traditions.

This need for a sense of self is innate in everyone and it is made evident at a very early age.  I am a “Texas girl”  may daughter has proudly declared since she was about 3 years of age.  We had never used this term before; it is one she came up with on her own and she has used it to also describe other people with whom she relates to.  I soon came to realize that already at a young age she somehow recognized the English/Spanish and Mexican American infusion of language, food and traditions that are central to our own personal lives in Austin and that may not always be present when we travel elsewhere in the United States.  This statement of who she is clearly had the intended purpose to help define her sense of self.

  • 3. Can lead to greater empathy and tolerance for others.

shutterstock_233858773Learning about other cultures allow us to focus on what we have in common and to better appreciate our differences.  I was reminded of this recently when we attended a family celebration for my husband’s niece’s high school graduation. The celebration was held in the graduate’s home in a suburb in northern Dallas. It incorporated cultural traditions from India with beautiful clothes, food and a large gathering of family and members in the community. When the Euro-American grandparents and the mother of my niece’s soon-to-be college roommate arrived at the party, my husband’s cousins quickly sought me out as the non-Indian representative of the family to talk to them, thinking that meeting someone else from a similar culture may help them feel more comfortable.  Soon thereafter, they sat down next to their daughter to watch the celebrations unfold.  Friends and cousins of the recent graduate stood up and spoke kind words about her.  Afterwards, a dear uncle stood up to say a few words and closed with a prayer of blessing in their native language for his niece’s future success.  While taking part of this wonderful celebration, I could not help but think about the soon-to-be roommate’s mother and grandparents.  For them, this was probably their first time being part of an Indian celebration, maybe even their first time ever to witness practices in a different culture.  And yet, as I sat there, I hoped that they too recognized that beyond the differences in clothes, food, and language, how much both cultures actually share in common – love and fellowship among family and friends, faith and hope for a successful future for the younger generation.  Such recognition is the first step of developing greater empathy and tolerance for each other.

  • 4. Can fuel creativity and innovation.shutterstock_258845798

The infusion of other ideas and experiences enrich our lives and create opportunities for redefining previous notions.  Every time you eat at one of the hundreds of TexMex restaurants in town or listen to popular music on the radio, you partake in the past creative infusion of cultures and traditions.  Yet it is not just creative infusions in food and music that blend cultures and traditions to form new and innovative products.  New philosophies and ideologies also are born and then redefined. Just look at how modern yoga and meditation, which originated from eastern philosophy, have now become common practice in our western culture.  Even the very notion of democracy came from intercultural exchange and dialogue from the past intertwined with our present day ideologies.  As our understanding of community becomes even more global, we will continue to witness a blend of cultural ideas and traditions that will continue to redefine concepts and notions and produce new and interesting ideas and products.  So far some of my new favorites have been Indian Flamenco music and Korean tacos!

  • 5. Can be lots of fun!Flamenco dance_Gabi_Santi

What better way to have fun than to explore new and interesting things, places and ideas.  Learning about cultures and traditions fuels curiosity and creates new and memorable adventures.  Try new foods, music, and clothes, travel and partake in new traditions.  You may be surprised by what you like and what you dislike.  In the process, you learn alot about others and yourself and create meaningful experiences that will stay with you a lifetime.  You never know, you may rediscover your own inner 6 year old and just want to dance!

Bilingual babies are better at detecting musical sounds, research shows

The Conversation

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from www.shutterstock.com

Exposing babies to multiple languages can help them detect differences in musical sounds from an early age.

Written by: Liquan Liu, Western Sydney University

Exposure to multiple languages may sharpen infants’ music sensitivity in the first year after birth, new research has found.

Compared to infants learning one language (monolinguals), those who grow up with more than one language (bilinguals/multilinguals) are more sensitive to the subtle pitch variations in language.

To understand whether such sensitivity is specific to language in nature, we further tested monolingual and bilingual infants’ sensitivity to music pitch.

Results showed that infants growing up in bilingual environments are more able to distinguish between two violin notes than their monolingual counterparts.

These findings suggest heightened acoustic sensitivity for bilingual infants. That is, infants’ multilingual experiences may make them better at detecting the small differences in sounds in the ambient environment than monolinguals, whether the sounds are coming from language or music.

It has been shown that speaking a tone language like Chinese will facilitate music perception probably due to the extensive usage of pitch on words in that language. The current research suggests that bilingual experience may yield a similar effect.

Sensitivity to sounds

When a child learns two different languages, they form a more complex, detailed system, with overlapping sounds enabling better comprehension of acoustics in general.

These infants may benefit from their experience of detecting and distinguishing subtle differences between two languages, and transfer this ability to non-speech sound perception, like music.

Infants may also pay more attention to input acoustic details than monolinguals, with the constant switching between languages serving as a frequent exercise for the ears and the brain.

Benefits of bilingualism

The effect of bilingualism is not restricted to the language domain. When bilinguals talk, all languages they know are activated by the brain.

A bilingual’s brain is constantly working on this language suppression and activation process.

Many scholars argue that bilinguals have better cognitive abilities such as executive control. This practice generates life-long cognitive benefits, and makes bilinguals think more adaptively, abstractly, and creatively.

Benefits surface early in infancy. Apart from their heightened acoustic sensitivity to language and music, bilingual infants have also been shown to outperform monolinguals in their:

Are there any drawbacks?

Regardless of anecdotes claiming that children growing up bilingually will have a slower developmental trajectory than monolinguals, researchers have found that bilingual children have the ability to separate their two languages early on, and that their pace of language development is not different from monolingual children given adequate exposure.

Whether it is learning a new language, picking up a language you used to speak, or raising your child bilingually, becoming bilingual may change your perception, cognition, learning and even brain structures.

Liquan Liu, Lecturer in Child development, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bilingual Middle School Programs: Filling the Void

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Austin Independent School District (AISD) has extended the Spanish/English dual-Language program to three middle schools beginning this academic year. The schools are Fulmore MS, Paredes MS and Burnet MS; and depending on space available, all three currently allow for transfers.  This is welcoming news for many of the bilingual students who have completed one of the many dual-language elementary programs throughout AISD.  However, it also addresses a bigger issue–the lack of bilingual educational programs for middle school students.

If you peruse Think Bilingual Austin’s directory, you can find an assortment of preschool bilingual programs throughout the community.  As a child get’s into Elementary school, you are still likely to find a bilingual program to keep your child engaged. Yet, once your child gets into middle school, the options seem to almost disappear.  After-school bilingual programs are few.  If you are lucky, your child’s middle school will offer world language classes.  Yet, these classes are mostly designed for those who have no prior language experience in a second language; and, thus are not ideal for those who have already developed a level of proficiency in the language.  (I even had one mother tell me that her daughter’s middle school would not even allow first year middle school students to take a foreign language class, further delaying her daughter’s chance to keep what she did know fresh).  Moreover, the majority of bilingual programs that do exist in middle schools primarily serve English Language Learners (ELLs) so that they can become proficient in English as quickly as possible. While this is very important; most of these programs are not designed to enable ELLs to also continue to strengthen knowledge and understanding in their native language.

The lack of programs for learning a second languages is seen throughout the United States.  An article published in Forbes, America’s Foreign Language Deficit, highlights the overall decline in investment in secondary language instruction across all educational institutions at a time when the need for students to become bilingual to compete in the global economy is increasing. It reveals the decline in foreign language instruction for middle schools alone went from 75% in 1997 to 53% in 2008.  In contrast, other countries around the world usually begin instruction in a second language in elementary school and continue to increase that instruction during the middle school years; thereby creating proficiency in a second language by the time a student graduates(2).

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Why is Middle School Second Language Instruction Important?

  • Middle school students are at a prime age for second language acquisition.
    • Middle school students are still young enough for immersion based learning to be quite effective.  However, they are also old enough to begin higher analytical thinking about the constructs of the language such as grammatical differences (1).
  • Middle school students begin thinking about their world more autonomously.
    • Students in middle school are at an age when they seek more autonomy in their life while also seeking to better understand how they fit in society and the world around them.  Becoming bilingual and multicultural gives this age group a better grasp of the world and society at large and how they can be a part of it.
  • Perfect time to begin developing needed skills for their future.
    • Studying a foreign language or learning a second language develops important intellectual skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, and effective communication, all of which are transferable skills to other disciplines.
    • Moreover, learning a language in middle school and continuing the study of that language would enable a level of proficiency to be attained by the time the student graduates high school and enters college or the workforce (2,3).

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Why are Middle School Second Language Programs Scarce and What Can Be Done?

  • Reduction in allocated funds. This likely reflects general attitudes by the public and education administrators.
  • Greater public awareness of the importance of bilingual education to better equip our future workforce for the global economy can spur efforts to grow support for such programs and put pressure back on administrators to better fund these programs.
  • An increased reliance on online language courses to teach middle schools. This goes hand in hand with the general lack of funding for foreign language programs.  However, research has shown that technology does not replace personal human interaction in language acquisition.
  • Online language courses can be used as a useful supplementary tool for language learning but not as a replacement.  We humans use so many subtle ques with varying expressions, gestures and tones when we communicate. By learning from personal interaction, we receive more engaging feedback for how to more effectively communicate in a second language.
  • Too many competing interests.  Middle school is a wonderful time to explore different subject areas and interests.  Because second language classes are often offered as an elective, it is forced to compete with so many other areas of interest. Yet, to become proficient in a second language a student must dedicate a considerable amount of time.  With so many options available, studying a secondary language may not be perceived as a worthwhile investment given the perceived more immediate rewards of studying something else.
  • By incorporating second language study into the core units of studies through an interdisciplinary approach, schools can prioritize second language acquisition more effectively (1, 2).
  • Secondary language instruction may be less meaningful.  Unfortunately, most programs in middle schools only offer basic introductory courses for those with no prior language study background.  The instruction of a second language in isolation does not provide a meaningful or purposeful experience for most students.  For those who are already bilingual or proficient in a second language, such classes may feel like a waste of time.
  • To be meaningful, middle school second language programs need to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to facilitate effective communication of ideas, feelings, understanding and knowledge in both a written and oral format and provide  a scaffolding model for continued language development based on level of proficiency (1).

References:

1) Sandrock, Paul, & Elizabeth Webb. (April 15, 2003). Learning Languages in Middle Schools. National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages.

2) Pufahl, I., Rohodes, N., & Christian, D. (2000). Foreign Language Teaching: What the United States Can Learn from Other Countries.  Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

3) Education Network of the European Commission (2000). The Position of Foreign Languages in European Education Systems (1999/2000). Brussels, Belgium.

Bilingual News Round-up

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Happy 2016!

We have compiled the latest in bilingual news to keep you informed.

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 Scientist find long lasting changes in the brain in babies and toddlers that learn a new language after having learned the first.  These changes in the brain persist even if one of the languages is forgotten later in life.

shutterstock_232099039 A continued debate continues to rage in the scientific community as to whether or not bilingualism provides cognitive benefits.  See the latest article on this topic from Scientific America.  The main arguments are the fact that much of the published research that shows cognitive advantages are not able to be easily replicated and that many papers exist that do not get published show no conclusive benefits.  However, these arguments do not touch on many other positive benefits of bilingualism.  Click here to read more.

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 We have heard that bilingualism can help stroke victims recover more quickly, but can it also help with epilepsy related memory problems?  A new study from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County and the University of California Irvine seems to suggest so.

shutterstock_130894010One teacher share’s thoughtful advice on how to teach bilingual learners in a recent blog in the Huffington Post.

 Wise Bread’s financial blog highlights 11 ways being bilingual can help your career.

shutterstock_206017312Originally posted last year and recently re-posted on twitter by Psypost, this article highlights a study that found learning a second language as a young child shifts ideas about learning new skills.  Much literature has been published on the importance of focusing on effort and experience over innate abilities. This study suggests that becoming bilingual as a child may actually help children intuitively appreciate this concept better.