This week in languages: June 1, 2018

by on June 1, 2018



There’s a body of research that points to the trend of low-income kids scoring lower than their more well-to-do peers on cognitive and standardised tests. But new evidence suggests there is a mitigating measure: learn another language. Researcher from the Singapore Management University studied “intellectual assessments from a subset of more than 18,000 kindergartners and first graders in the U.S.”, where they found that within the group of children hailing from low-income families, those who spoke a second language in the home domain scored better than their monolingual, low-income peers. The results, published in the journal Child Development, hope to convey that the “relations among bilingualism, socioeconomic status and cognitive development” are not so simple.

Meet Tang Shuai, the sign language lawyer who’s become a social media star in China after posting an educational video about Ponzi schemes in sign language. Deaf people in China can face difficulties in getting legal assistance due to a shortage of lawyers who know sign language, reports the BBC.

Commentaries and Features

Self-regulation promotes early language and literacy development. This was found from a study where children’s self-regulation was assessed through observations of whether they were able to follow game commands even when the commands were “reversed or mixed”. While the extent of self-regulation may be a biological predisposition, the study’s researchers advise that it can be cultivated as well through the home environment and the adoption of certain routines.

Ask anyone from Indonesia or Malaysia if they speak the same language as the other country and you’re most likely to get a resounding “no!” Michael Chen and Dewi Fitzpatrick tease out the differences between the two tongues in this piece for Medium. “Even when Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu do use the same words, oftentimes they have very different meanings. ‘Tandas’ in Indonesian means to accentuate. In Malay it means toilet. ‘Percuma’ in Malay means free, while in Indonesia it means useless.”

What do you do with a language “in a deep sleep”? For linguist researcher and leader of the Indigenous Language Project at Queensland State Library, Desmond Crump, you learn your grandmother’s tongue and work with others in Queensland to reclaim their heritage languages. Working with language lists, these word detectives such as Crump help elders to recall a language they mostly relegated to their memories, while building a library of linguistic data on 85 indigenous languages for future generations to tap into.

“It’s just been sleeping but we’re waking the language back up again.”

Mashpee Wampanoag tribe linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird began doing personal research about the Wampanoag language in the early 1990s, and founded the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP). The WLRP has just been awarded a $90,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute of Longmont, Colorado. This award will support WLRP in expanding Mukayuhsak Weekuw: The Children’s House Montessori preschool and kindergarten to add grades 1 through 4 for their Wampanoag language immersion classes in the coming academic years.

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