GOOD

Want To Change How Kids See The World? Teach Them A Second Language

For children, bilingualsm is much more than simply being able to speak in a different language.

photo via (cc) flickr user CTG/SF

As a child in a dual-language elementary school, my teachers liked to explain that learning another language would enable me to meet more people, have conversations in new places, and generally be a better citizen of the world. And while my bilingual skills have gone woefully underused since my grade-school graduation, I am thankful for being exposed to a second language, if only for the fact that it’s given me an added “skills” line on my resume, and the ability to – every once in a while – randomly surprise some of the kiosk workers at my local mall. But, as it turns out, my learning a second language at a young age may, in fact, have affected me more profoundly than I, or anyone else for that matter, previously knew.


According to a new study out of Canada’s Concordia University: “[C]ertain bilingual kids are more likely to understand that it’s what one learns, rather than what one is born with, that makes up a person’s psychological attributes.”

Most children, it seems, are “essentialists” who believe that people’s characteristics are innate properties they’re born with. It’s a line of thinking that, when it appears in adults, can lend itself to the endorsement of prejudices and stereotypes. Children taught a second language at a young age, on the other hand, are more open to the possibility that traits which their monolingual peers might see as innate are, instead, learned.

In the study, 48 elementary school aged children – some monolingual, some bilingual, and some sequentially bilingual (that is, learned two languages one after another) – were presented with scenarios in which babies born to one set of parents were then adopted by parents speaking a different language, and in which ducks were raised by a family of dogs. They were then asked what language the adopted babies would speak, and whether the ducks would bark, or quack.

The monolingual subjects of the study displayed the predicted outcome of innate essentialism. But the study’s architect, psychology professor Krista Byers-Heinlein, was surprised to find that:

Sequential bilinguals did, in fact, show reduced essentialist beliefs about language — they knew that a baby raised by Italians would speak Italian. But they were also significantly more likely to believe that an animal’s physical traits and vocalizations are learned through experience — that a duck raised by dogs would bark and run rather than quack and fly.

Which is to say that neither group was “correct,” (sorry, but a duck raised by dogs is never going to bark and run, no matter how much we all might really want it) but that each makes their own discrete type of mistakes. Still, Professor Byers-Heinlein’s discovery could help shape the way we think about developmental education, and perhaps inspire us to raise a bilingual generation open to diversity and difference, beginning at childhood.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health