Understanding How the Brain Speaks Two Languages

The very fact that something as simple as working with puzzles or having once got a good education can improve brain function does prove that multilingualism is not the only path to staying cognitively healthy in your dotage. And plenty of monolinguals do perfectly well at acquiring empathy and social skills early in life. Still, there are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world. There must be a reason our brains come factory-loaded to learn more than just one.

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The most difficult language of the world

Despite being the world’s lingua franca, English is the most difficult European language to learn to read. Children learning other languages master the basic elements of literacy within a year, but British kids take two-and-a-half years to reach the same point.

HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?

For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.

The Science Delusion and Good News for Lumbering Robots

Three decades ago, few scientists were courageous enough to break ranks and question their own belief system. Even calling science a belief system sounded outrageous – religion is a matter of belief, science a matter of facts. The most far-seeing scientist who was willing to break ranks then, as now, was Rupert Sheldrake, who risked his impeccable credentials as a Cambridge biochemist with real joy, like a man suddenly able to breathe. Thirty years after his first heretical books, Sheldrake’s new one, Science Set Free (The Science Delusion, UK), is a landmark achievement.