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The following two articles were sent in by Owen:

Two Tongues

Bilingual children may have the edge over their monolingual peers in reading.

Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, Canada, compared the reading abilities of two groups of four and five-year-olds. One group spoke only English, while the other spoke either French or Chinese as well.

Bialystok showed the children two pictures: a dog and a tree. She also showed them a card with the word "tree" written on it and placed it under the tree picture. The children were then distracted while the card was moved to beneath the dog picture.

When Bialystok asked the children what the card said, only 33 per cent of the monolingual children got it right--most of them thought it said "dog".  But 80 per cent of the bilingual children were correct, Bialystok reports in the latest issue of Developmental Psychology (vol 33, p 429). "Bilingual kids realise earlier that when you write something down, it's the word that contains the meaning," she says.

---from New Scientist, 12 July 1997--- 

Word Workout      By Alison Motluk

People who learn second languages as adults build up new brain areas to handle the knowledge, according to new American research. But if you learn two or more languages as a youngster, you incorporate them into the same primary language area, the study suggests.

Joy Hirsch and her colleagues at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York studied 12 bilingual people. Six of them --dubbed "early" bilinguals--had learnt two languages in infancy. The other six were "late" bilinguals, who mastered a second language
between the ages of 11 and 19. While her subjects silently "spoke" their two languages in turn, Hirsch used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain activity in Broca's area in the frontal region of the cortex. In this week's Nature (vol 388, p 171), her team reports that in early bilinguals, both languages lit up the same part of Broca's area. In late bilinguals,
however, two discrete regions about 8 millimetres apart were activated.

The findings suggest that a primary language centre integrates all the languages a child is exposed to during an early formative period. But people who learn new languages at a later date have added to their language system, says Hirsch: "We can see the body building in the brain as a result of this."

The findings seem at odds with a study in 1995 using positron emission tomography scans. This suggested that languages are always centred in the same part of Broca's area. However, "late"
bilinguals in the 1995 study learnt a second language at an average age of only seven, matching Hirsch's description of an early bilingual.

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