Bilingualism in Minority Languages - Professor Antonella Sorace (full talk)
From Ewan McAndrew
Bilingualism in minority languages: a resource and an opportunity
Research on the bilingual mind shows that bilingualism in any languages, regardless of their status, prestige, and worldwide diffusion, can give children a range of mental benefits. Equally, child bilingualism is essential to the inter-generational transmission of these languages, and in some cases to their very prospect of survival. However, there are still many widespread old misconceptions – as well as some new ones - about what it means to grow up with two languages. For example, many people still think that early bilingualism makes children confused and puts them at a disadvantage at school. Research, in contrast, shows that when there are differences between monolingual and bilingual children, these are almost invariably in favour of bilinguals: bilingual children tend to have enhanced metalinguistic skills and language learning abilities, a better understanding of other people’s points of view, and more mental flexibility in dealing with complex situations. Some of these benefits have also been found in adult second language learners, both younger and much older. I will first illustrate the main facts and benefits of bilingualism over the lifespan, focusing in particular on current research on minority languages, including Gaelic. I will then present what can be done to disseminate correct information on bilingualism in different sectors of society and to enable informed decisions in minority language communities.