2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

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Culture shock – U Curve Hypothesis weaknesses



A. Furnham and S. Bochner (1986) identified a number of problems with the U-curve hypothesis. Firstly, they argued that the adjustment process has too many variables such as homesickness, loneliness and depression and these should be taken into account. Secondly, they argued that the model of the U-curve reviewed in the literature is uneven as culture shock is totally subjective and people start the adjustment process at a different level of adequacy. This process also changes at a dissimilar pace for each individual. The U-curve model presents a smooth linear adjustment process which does not correspond to reality. As a matter of fact, according to Kim (1988) the transformation takes place through a process of generation and degeneration crises or events, where the movement of change differs, according to the variables of the adjustment process and diverse individuals. To sum up, it could be said  that, although the U-curve model is a convenient way to represent culture shock, it cannot provide an accurate measurement of the phenomenon as the latter is too complex and subjective. Moreover, the research carried out so far has been descriptive and did not look in depth at relationships among the different aspects of culture shock. For instance, it did not analyse in which order culture shock events are likely to happen and which groups of people are more likely to suffer from certain types of culture shock.

Beat culture shock (Adaptation stage and U-Curve Hypothesis)

Confidence is the best remedy

Confidence is the best remedy

If an individual manages to overcome the stage of rejection, the adaptation stage begins. This stage is described by Oberg as an achievement as the visitor starts to communicate using the host language and interacts more with the country hosts. At this point, the visitor perceives the daily challenges with less anxiety and is able to crack a joke over the difficulties experienced. Therefore, the adjustment stage has taken place and the visitor feels confident in dealing with daily life situations and embraces the hosts traditions and customs. Sometimes when going back home, the visitor misses the country he lived in, its people and its culture. Other researchers such as S.O. Lesser and H.W.S. Peter (1957, cited in Pedersen 1995), developed a three stage theory regarding culture shock, identifying the first stage as the spectator phase on arrival, the second stage as when the individual cannot stand any longer outside the host culture and needs to get involved and third stage when the individual learns how to cope with difficulties in daily life activity. More recent is the cultural shock stage theory developed by I. Torbion (1982, cited in Pedersen 1995) where he describes the first stage as the tourist phase, the second stage as the culture shock phase, the third stage as the conformist phase and fourth stage as the assimilation phase. Although there are variations in the stages described, culture shock stage theories are largely shared among those writing about this construct. This succession of stages has been referred to a U-curve where the process of adjustment moves from a higher level towards a lower level to then return to a higher level when the ability to cope with the new culture increases. S. Lysgaard (1955) was the first to develop the U-curve hypothesis describing the adjustment process of international students sojourning in a foreign country (cited in Pedersen 1995). This initial curve was then modified into a W-curve by J.T. Gullahorn and J.E. Gullahorn (1963) who pointed out how the adjustment process taking place when back home, resembled the initial adjustment in the host country taking the name of reverse cultural shock (cited in Pedersen 1995). In support of the U-curve hypothesis are eleven empirical studies. However, the results of these studies, support only the general hypothesis but do not prove that a level of full adjustment, comparable to the one the individual experienced back home, can be achieved. 

Read the introduction to this article here

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Related articles

Yes, children can learn two languages or more without problems

Bilingual Beatrice

Recently Petitto et al (2011) carried out a neuroimaging experiment to examine the phonetic processing in bilingual and monolingual babies. She divided the babies in two age groups with younger babies with ages between 4-6 months and older babies between 10-12 months. The scholar found out not only that the phonetic processing in infants is achieved with the same language-specific brain areas as in adults, but also that the phonetic processing in the two groups took place with significant timing differences. Fascinatingly, Petitto et al (2011) observed in older bilingual babies a robust neural and behavioural  sensitivity to Non-Native phonetic in contrast to monolingual babies of the same age who could no longer make such differentiations. She therefore advanced “The Perceptual Wedge Hypothesis” with the “wedge” corresponding to the increased neural and computational demands of language exposure and processing, which resulted in strengthening language analyses abilities across two language systems through an agile linguistic processing in general. It is fascinating how the human language processing is dominated by biological factors, but can at the same time be altered by experiences dictated by the outside environment . Petitto et al (2011) concludes by supporting the existence of language advantages in young bilingual infants who are subject to an early bilingual exposure. In contrast to the general belief that exposure to a second or additional language causes language delay, such a study busts the related and wide-spread myth by demonstrating that early bilingual exposure does not in fact hamper the developing bilingual child. In conclusion, both researches, in bilinguals and monolingual infants support the view of the capacity in infants to analyse and make sense of language input, with older bilinguals acquiring an impressive language processing ability. Moreover, a significant way to determine whether dual language learning is burdensome for young children is to examine the language development milestones in simultaneous bilingual. If dual language learning cognitive limitations did exist in infants, it would be expected that young children would be affected by delays in early milestones. Even though, simultaneous bilingual children show differences, compared to monolingual children, in their babbling and first word combinations, these do not present delays in their language development. Such differences appear to be the result of the intensity of the exposure to both languages and could also be influenced by diverse factors. Studies on babbling and lexical development in infants and toddlers showed that bilingual children produce their first words at approximately the same age as their monolingual peers. Even investigations on bimodal language learning resulted in no delay compared to monolingual milestones. Indeed, Petitto and her colleagues (2001), studied a sample of hearing children who were learning spoken French and sign language at the same time. Fascinatingly, the investigation revealed that the first words, first two-words combinations and the acquisition of the first 50 words were attained by three of the bilingual children examined in the same time frame as monolingual children. In sum, research on early milestones development shows that bilingual children do not necessarily experience difficulty. These findings do not, however, imply that simultaneous bilingual children experience the same language development patterns as monolingual do and certainly do not match monolingual children in every aspect. Nevertheless, these differences do not translate into deficits or disorders as they do not cause significant language delays. Parents and professionals should be aware that substantial delays in early milestones are often an initial warning that a child might present a language disorder. 

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Is it cognitiveley burdensome for young children to learn two languages?



One of the main issues in understanding dual language development in both simultaneous bilinguals and sequential learners is undoubtedly the complicated link between language and cognition. Laura Berk provides a useful definition of cognition: “cognition refers to the inner processes and product of the mind that lead to ‘knowing’. It includes all mental activity-attending, remembering, symbolizing , categorizing, planning, reasoning, problem solving, creating and fantasizing” (2003, p.218). Such connection has been widely researched by theoreticians seeking to understand the relationship between language and cognition in specific theoretical frames. Such meticulous research is beyond the scope of this review, in fact, it will suffice to focus on those specific facets regarding two controversial questions which seem to be of extreme concern to parents and professionals alike. Firstly; do young children have cognitive limitations which result in a burdensome experience when learning two languages? Secondly; does dual language learning affect cognitive development? The answers to these questions are of vital importance for parents and professionals who often hold false beliefs and interpret the behaviours of dual language learners that vary from monolingual children as signs of impairment, when instead such behaviours could reflect individual variations present in children, just as they are in adults.

A well spread myth on bilingualism, amongst laypeople and some professionals alike is the belief that children experience difficulty because they have limited cognitive language capacity. As previously mentioned, early research contributed to creating a pessimistic view on bilingualism in early childhood by postulating the hypothesis of an existing innate limited language capacity in infants and young children (the limited capacity hypothesis). On the other hand, recent research suggests the existence of a biological ability to acquire two languages without compromising both languages’ development. Even though, the research on dual learning children has been minor compared to the research conducted on monolingual children, the latter reveals important findings that relate to bilingual children to a great extent. Indeed, evidence shows that children are born with significant processing skills which allow them to learn a language at very early development.  Impressively Boysson-Bardies states: “we now know that not only is the brain of the baby not empty, but in a certain sense it is fuller than that of the most brilliant scientist” (1999, p.13). Gerken (2008) provides a review on studies on infants from 6 to 18 months who were tested on their preference of one auditory stimulus against another, with some infants also assessed on their ability to differentiate two types of stimuli based on existing knowledge they had when entering the laboratory. From these studies, it emerges that infants are able to detect a language related input. In addition, there is empirical research which demonstrates that infants’ remarkable auditory discriminatory and memory skills after birth are influenced by language experiences in the womb.

Bosch and Sebastian-Galles (2001)studied language differentiation abilities in 4 month old infants exposed to Spanish and Catalan and discovered that their discrimination skills were similar, therefore, they concluded that reduced exposure to each language did not delay the appearance of the language differentiation ability in these learners. Further research reveals that infants have the capacity to discriminate individual language sounds described with the term of phonetic segments.

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Children Second Language oral skills are linked to social interaction more than general intelligence.

Mum & Daughter bonding

Mum and daughter bonding

Antoher aspect related to the relationship between language and cognition that helps in understanding the capacities that dual learning children possess, is the connection between general intelligence and second language learning. General intelligence in this context refers to those skills that children need to be successful in school such as analytical thinking, problem solving and creativity (Paradis et al 2011). These kind of abilities are usually assessed by IQ tests, yet this idea of intelligence is controversial and totally criticised by some individuals, however, it appears to be broadly accepted among the majority of people. The link between general intelligence and second language learning is of particular importance to researchers as parents and educators are mostly concerned that children with levels of intelligence below the average are not able to learn a second language and that the introduction of another language will be so intellectually challenging that it will damage their “first” language development. Paradis et al 2011 dispel this myth by asserting that empirical research has proven that children with intelligence below the norm, score as their monolingual peers with the same low level of intelligence in programs designed for foreign language learning. General intelligence tests are focused to examine those skills as already mentioned that will be necessary for the child’s academic success. In fact, the children who usually obtain high scores in these tests are able to achieve high scores in reading and writing tests. Conversely, general intelligence test do not seem to have high correlations to the acquisition of oral language and listening abilities whose development is linked to social interaction. This could be due to the influence that other factors have on children’s daily communication. In fact, regardless of their intellectual capacity, young children are able to acquire a second language if a necessary language exposure is experienced. Nevertheless, some children can be slower as they might have a lower language aptitude or they could have been affected by traumatic experiences such as food deprivation and post-war shock, which is the case with most refugee children.  It is of crucial importance for professionals to analyse the social and personal circumstances concerning children having difficulties in learning a second language in order to assess the situation correctly.

Experience the real Italian experience with your child

Young children and bilingualism (definition)

Just as adults are, children are unique individuals with many differences. These differences often constitute a challenge for parents but also for educators and even professionals who are not familiar with a specific child’s background. Bilingual young children embody linguistic and cultural variations in addition to those they have in common with monolingual children. These variations enrich the child’s experiences and might even benefit their lives in many ways. However, very often these children are stigmatised by being defined as different, in its negative connotation, and they are treated accordingly, particularly in those communities where monolingual children represent the norm. This comes as no surprise when even the American Family Physician Journal (1999) lists bilingualism along with cognitive disorders as one of the causes provoking speech delay. “A bilingual home environment may cause a temporary delay in the onset of both languages. The bilingual child’s comprehension of the two languages is normal for a child of the same age, however, and the child usually becomes proficient in both languages before the age of five years.”  Beyond the lack of recent empirical research in support of this claim, the citation does not take into consideration diverse factors which have diverse impacts on children such as age. According to Paradis et al (2011) young bilingual children are divided into two groups which need to be distinguished for reasons that will be analysed subsequently. The scholars use the term of “simultaneous bilingual children” referring to those children who have the opportunity to be exposed frequently to both languages from birth or soon after, even though, an equal exposure is fairly difficult to achieve due to a wide range of factors. On the other hand, Paradis et al (2011) employ the term “second language learners” or “sequential or successive bilinguals”  when referring to those children who have already made a considerable advancement towards the acquisition of one language, when they begun the process of acquiring the second language. Even though there is not a net distinction in the child’s development which delineates bilingual from second language acquisition, there is a general consensus among researchers on the cut-off age of three. Such a distinction arises for two crucial reasons; first of all, because the first language vocabulary and grammar can be already well established and cognitive age can also be a variable in second language learning, and secondly because emerging evidence shows that there exist subtle differences in language outcomes when learning does not start at birth or before 3 or four years of age. 

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