Finding ‘lost’ languages in the brain: Far-reaching implications for unconscious role of infant experiences

An infant’s mother tongue creates neural patterns that the unconscious brain retains years later even if the child totally stops using the language, (as can happen in cases of international adoption) according to a new joint study by scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro and McGill University’s Department of Psychology. The study offers the first neural evidence that traces of the “lost” language remain in the brain.

Read the whole article here:

Native Language Immersion Makes Students Better

Teresa L. McCarty


As Congress considers two bills to support Native American language immersion, including the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, it is time to take stock. What does research say about the impact of Native-language immersion on Native students’ academic achievement? We now have 30 years—more than a generation—of data on Native-language immersion in the U.S. and beyond. In this article I highlight key findings from this research.

But first, what do we mean by Native-language immersion? It may be easier to begin with what immersion is not. Native-language immersion is not simply “Native language instruction.” It is not a pullout program or a 50-minute class. Native-language immersion is not submersion, a method that compels students to learn a second language at the expense of their mother tongue.

Native-language immersion is voluntary; parents often participate in immersion themselves to support their children’s language learning at home. Native-language immersion is additive, building on students’ first-language abilities as a foundation for learning the Native language as a second language. Native-language immersion is full-day or most-of-the-day teaching and learning in the Native language, often complemented by after-school and summer programs. Native-language immersion systematically incorporates Native cultural content and culturally appropriate ways of teaching and learning. Most important, Native-language immersion not only engages students in learning the Native language, but also math, science, social studies, music, art, and even English through that language. In other words, Native-language immersion is a whole program that cultivates what language researcher Fred Genessee calls “the whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community.”


Why is bilingual education ‘good’ for rich kids but ‘bad’ for poor, immigrant students?

By Claire Bowern

Two languages, two sets of opinion about bilingualism. On the one side is the research that consistently shows that bilingualism is good for you. It leads to an enriched set of experiences, a new way of seeing the world, and more prosaically but no less importantly, is associated with reduced rates of dementia. People who are multilingual are perceived as more intelligent and educated, and they have better international contacts and resources in their careers.

On the other side, we also hear about the perniciousness of bilingualism among immigrants, the uselessness of supporting and preserving minority and indigenous languages, and the educational and economic harm that comes from ‘wasting’ valuable resources on bilingual education initiatives. Some even see maintaining another language as seditious, a compromise to national security, or at the very least, evidence of conflicted loyalties or identities, or that a person cannot be fully trusted.

These opposing views tells us more about stereotypes and social pigeonholing than about language. To put it bluntly, bilingualism is often seen as “good” when it’s rich English speakers adding a language as a hobby or another international language, but “bad” when it involves poor, minority, or indigenous groups adding English to their first language, even when the same two languages are involved.

Read the full article here:

Scientists: Mysterious Kennewick Man looked Polynesian and came from far away

The mysterious Kennewick Man, who died 9,000 years ago in the Columbia River Valley, was a seal hunter who rambled far and wide with a projectile point lodged in his hip, five broken ribs that never healed properly, two small dents in his skull and a bum shoulder from the repetitive stress of throwing spears.

He came from somewhere far away, far up the Pacific Northwest coast, possibly Alaska or the Aleutian Islands. He might even have come to North America all the way from Asia.

That’s the argument of the editors of a new, 688-page, peer-reviewed book, “Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton,” that will be published this fall by Texas A&M University Press.

Bilingual children ‘show advantage’ in noisy classrooms

By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News
14 October 2014
From the section Education & Family

Children fluent in two languages learn better in noisy classrooms than pupils who speak just one, research suggests.
Bilingual and monolingual pupils at a Cambridge primary school were asked to “identify the bad animal’ in a series of recorded statements.
When another voice interrupted the statements, the bilingual children coped best, the study found.

Read the full article below:

Captive Orcas Learn To Speak Dolphin

Although many species communicate acoustically, the vast majority of animals use a genetically innate repertoire of sounds to exchange information. But some species, including humans, are capable of imitating sounds and adding it to their own repertoire, a process known as vocal learning. It is thought that the acquisition of this ability may have been a first step in the evolution of human language.

Although this trait is extremely rare, it is not unique to humans and has been discovered in 6 groups of animals: 3 groups of birds and 3 groups of mammals. Now, thanks to new research, we know that killer whales are capable of cross-species vocal learning. When socialized with bottlenose dolphins in captivity, the team discovered that they transitioned from their typical vocalizations and emitted more dolphin-like noises. According to the researchers, this suggests that cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) may use this trait to facilitate social interactions. The work has been published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Read the full article below:

How Linguists Are Pulling Apart the Bering Strait Theory

Alex Ewen

Over the past few weeks, new scientific discoveries have rekindled the debate over the Bering Strait Theory. Two of the discoveries were covered recently in Indian Country Today. The first “More Reasons to Doubt the Bering Strait Migration Theory,” dealt with the growing problem of “science by press release,” as scientific studies hype their conclusions to the point that they are misleading; and the second, “DNA Politics: Anzick Child Casts Doubt on Bering Strait Theory,” discussed how politics can influence science, and the negative effects these politically-based scientific results can have on Native peoples.