miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2012

Talking point: Speaking a second or third language

Today we are celebrating the European Day of Languages, so it seems more than appropriate that this week's talking point revolves about the benefits of speaking a second language. The topic is taken from a question that came up in the Student Opinion section of The New York Times Learning Network, Do you speak a second or third language?, where they informed about the discoveries made by cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok, who states that children who are bilingual have a way of thinking that helps them better distinguish important information from the less important.

Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below.

What languages do you speak?
Are you or someone you are close to able to speak two (or more) languages fluently? 
What's your experience of speaking the second or third language?
Do you think in one language and “translate” your thoughts when you wish to speak in your other language(s)?
Have you found yourself thinking in the new language at times?
If you have bilingual friends or acquaintances, have you noticed whether they have sharper minds than most other people?
Have you noticed any advantages other than being able to communicate with more people?
What is the hardest part about learning a new language? The best part?
Do you think that learning about the culture of the second language may be useful to learn the language?
Is it important to be a man or a woman to better grasp the second or third language?
Is it important to have reference books like dictionaries or grammars or just read for pleasure in the second language?
Do you think that being good at expressing yourself in your own language,both in speaking and writing, helps to learn another language?
How important do you think it is having a good memory?
What other qualities are important to learn a second language?

In preparation for your conversation session and to gain some insight into the advantages of being bilingual, you can read the two posts I mentioned before or read The New York Times article “The Bilingual Advantage” by Ellen Bialystok.

Chris Young for The New York Times

We have already published a couple of posts on this blog about the advantages of being bilingual or mastering a second language: The advantages of being bilingual and The Guardian article Being bilingual boosts brain power.