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“New research into the neurobiology of bilingualism has found that being fluent in two languages, particularly from early childhood, not only enhances a person’s ability to concentrate, but might also protect against the onset of dementia and other age-related cognitive decline.
Scientists have discovered that bilingual adults have denser gray matter (brain tissue packed with information-processing nerve cells and fibers), especially in the brain’s left hemisphere, where most language and communication skills are controlled. The effect is strongest in people who learned a second language before the age of five and in those who are most proficient at their second language. This finding suggests that being bilingual from an early age significantly alters the brain’s structure.” (Society for Neuroscience, 2008)
That's a long quote but it does say quite compactly what other sources confirm - that  learning another language, early and well, improves brain structure and function permanently, in a way that learning other things may not. Surely enhancing the ability to concentrate is something which will have benefits in every area of learning. Rather than being a distraction from "Key Competencies", "Basics" or "Core Subjects", early bilingualism can be seen as "sharpening the axe" before spending the day chopping down a really big tree!


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Of course, it doesn't help to be vague about the practicalites of providing early bilingualism.
This chart shows what can be achieved in the first 100 hours of  education, using different target languages.*
As you can see, the benefits of bilingualism - improved concentration and resistance to dementia in later life - are fully realized by schools offering 100 hours of Esperanto, but not by the other choices.
After the first hundred hours, the choice is wide open again - more so than it was, but that's tomorrow's post!

*The figures are derived from a number of sources including Alex McAndrew, former director of Sydney University's language learning unit, and the US department of defense. They are for motivated adults, and children take a little longer (wonder why? ask me in the comments below!)


 


Comments

Sinjoro ENG
12/14/2011 04:15

Saluton.

It is a very wonderful article. But there is no comparison of learning English with 100 hours. Though people know the major language in Australia is English, many still do not know how much for English for 100 hours of learning,especially those live outside the English speaking countries.

I would appreciate the new picture of that so that it is easier for me to promote Esperanto in my country, Malaysia.

Thanks for the article.

Regards

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06/19/2012 02:55

Nice blog about the brain building.I like the blog post to read.

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12/14/2011 12:33

Saluton Sinjoro Eng,

Thanks for your comment :-)
The pie charts show how long various languages take for monolingual English-speakers to learn.

How long English takes to learn as a second language depends on what the first language is.

As a rough guide, you could assume that the linguistic distance is the same in either direction so that the graphs give an indication of how much English can learned in 100 hours, by speakers of the other languages.

If your first language is Mandarin, I would expect that English would take over 2000 hours to learn to the basic working level shown in these graphs.

Unfortunately, I don't think that learning Esperanto first will reduce English-learning time to as little as 100 hours, because Esperanto is quick to learn by design, not just by a symmetrical similarity to English.

Researchers at Asian University in Bangkok may soon have more to tell us about how much Esperanto helps Thai children to learn English.

Best regards,
Penny

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12/15/2011 20:02

I've read that an English speaker can learn Esperanto in one year, a Chinese speaker can learn Esperanto in two years, and a Chinese speaker can learn English in ten years. I'd assume that part of the extra time it takes for a Chinese speaker to learn Esperanto is related to the alphabet, which wouldn't plague a speaker of Malay (which AFAIK uses the Latin alphabet, same as Esperanto).

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Ryan
04/05/2014 14:35

Actually, I'm a native English speaker and within 2 days I could talk with people from other countries who do not speak English in Esperanto with the help of a dictionary. This was by text of course, I couldn't speak it quite that fast but I'm still shocked at how easy it is. Esperanto estas tre facila

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12/17/2011 04:14

Saluton

Thanks for the info.

Here would like to share with the readers that the Chinese speakers now do not have problems with the Latin alphabet a,b,c etc because the Chinese mainland had changed the pronunciation symbols from zhuyin ( 注音) to hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音). The hanyu pinyin is using the a,b,c etc.

It is the Taiwanese have to learn the a, bo, co and of course the Tamil users in my country or Thai language users etc that they have to learn the a, bo, co ktp.

Even learning this simple a.bo,co. I think it would take more than one month, perhaps, not more than 20 hours.

Good luck to the Esperanto users and hope that more research would surface. I am still keeping my fingers crossed on the research of Esperanto could help the autism kids learn better. It was reported by the ex Chicogo Esperanto Association President Tony in the change dot com.

Regards

SE

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Elhana
07/16/2012 22:58

OH REALLY? That why each other chinese junk which I buy has terrible error telling you that chinese people don't know even a Latin alphabet? These simple 26 letters, you know?

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Sinjoro ENG
07/19/2012 19:18

Elhana, I shall not reply to all your posts and I advise you not to come here to smear the pages. You did it on my blog, I shall delete all your insanity posts and make it a spam.

You went to the TEX amsterdam to argue insanely.

If you dislike Esperanto, leave it at peace and don't waste your time and the time of other people.

I would advise the readers to keep this person at arm. Use your time for other better things to do.

04/18/2012 19:07

i trully enjoy most of your articles and your different point of view. Thanks.

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05/08/2012 06:24

I've read that an English speaker can learn Esperanto in one year, a Chinese speaker can learn Esperanto in two years, and a Chinese speaker can learn English in ten years. I'd assume that part of the extra time it takes for a Chinese speaker to learn Esperanto is related to the alphabet, which wouldn't plague a speaker of Malay (which AFAIK uses the Latin alphabet, same as Esperanto).

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Elhana
07/16/2012 23:05

And where does English fits on your chart? Why would someone learn a retardedly complex language like German, Arabic or Russian instead of learning English? English, which by your own calculation scheme is 5-10 times easier than Esperanto?

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07/16/2012 23:15

Hi Elhana,

English fits nowhere on my chart because the chart shows how long it takes to learn other languages if you already speak English.

German is not more complex than English. Russian is probably not either, although it is more time-consuming for English-speakers than German because t has a different alphabet.

English is many times more difficult than Esperanto, starting from any other language.

What do you mean by "(my) calculation scheme" ?

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Elhana
07/18/2012 17:41

Well, I cannot consider data which put German language with it complex and complicated morphology, and Dutch, with 0 morphology, in the same group, as trustworthy. If we assume that author of this data ignored time spend to practice morphology completely, then it is unknown, how Esperanto without its presumably simple morphology bonus, could get such an advantage. So the data was undoubtely rigged.

At the other hand, people would spend their time learning a useful and simple language, like English, than language with completely made-up rules, like Esperanto. Why would someone learn 42 (forty-two) rules of using the article in Esperanto, knowing they are arbitrary and made up just for his complication? So I see no advantage on a learning side either.

07/19/2012 04:10

Hi Elhana,

How can a language have 0 morphology?
The simply-presented figures I used for the diagram came from a long-serving director of the languages learning centre of Sydney University but the Foreign service institute does agree with you that Dutch is easier than German http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

On the other hand, English is anything but easy
http://www.xamuel.com/10-reasons-why-english-is-hard-language/

Wouldn't "made up rules" be inherently easier to manage than the sort of absence of rules or only sometimes applicable "rules" that are present in natural languages where no-one had authority or foresight to "make them up"?

I never heard of the 42 rules you mention, much less learned them (if they exist). There are 16 rules of Esperanto grammar and all you need to know about articles is that "la"="the" and there is no word for "a"- just skip it, it's assumed.

Since Esperanto was developed (at enormous personal expense) to be simple, what sense does it make to say that anything was added "just for his complication"?

Perhaps the misunderstandings are due to the fact that we are using English, which I think is not your first language. We might do better if we communicated in Esperanto :-)

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Elhana
07/25/2012 14:34

Forty-two of these rules are in my 'Conscise reference to Esperanto grammar'. 19 rules state when the article must be used, and the rest 23 where it should never be used. Book is reviewed by Academy member.
See, if you can just forget about rules and use articles as English does, it means that these rules are made up on the spot, or stolen from personal hobbyhorse language of whoever happened to get into Academy this time. Of course people don't want to learn such a language: rules of native language are neutral because they exist as a fact which you cannot take a personal offence with...

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Geo
11/10/2012 10:23

Strange, that nobody has noticed that this "Elhana" is simple troll that thrives on your embarrassment. Just stop answering his/her posts and treat them as the air.

07/25/2012 16:05

Elhana, lots of people don't want to learn Esperanto- as lots of people don't want to learn any other language- but in 17 years of teaching and talking about Esperanto, I never found one who "took offence" at the 16 rules of grammar, which are all that Zamenhof described and all that anyone learns and uses. Most people find it a huge relief to be able to learn those points in a matter of hours, though it takes longer of course to master a stock of word roots and to get comfortable with where to put the accusative. That, and participles are the main bits that beginners need help with.
It could be that you can tease article use out into 42 specifics but so what? (I'm sure you could write a whole book on articles in English, after all, there are twice as many of them, and even that is less than many other languages.) But if no-one knows your list of 42, and no-one needs to ( even beginners do not make mistakes with use of the article) then it is a matter to amuse linguists rather than to "offend" anyone or obstruct intercultural communication.

You ask us to "See, if you can just forget about rules and use articles as English does, it means that these rules are made up on the spot.." Well, no, it would mean that the rules are the same as English. If that is consistently true, then the only "spot" it could have been "made up on" would have been the beginning of the language, which is not news exactly.

You continue"...or stolen from personal hobbyhorse language of whoever happened to get into Academy this time". How could that follow from "if you can just forget about rules and use articles as English does, it means that these rules are..."? Is English a personal hobbyhorse language? And do you imagine that the academy changes the way we use Esperanto? If so you are quite mistaken. Most Esperanto speakers barely know the academy exists, far less who the members are. I think I know just one. I know some of his views and share some of them. The academy has no power to change the language according to their whims, or even according to really good reasoning. If they did, I'd like them to add a word for her-or-him (which is also missing in English) but they don't.

Have you perhaps designed a better language? One we should all know but don't?

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Dianne Lukes
11/03/2012 07:38

Thank you for the interesting information you have in this blog, Penny. I especially like the research you have quoted about the brain and your pie graphs to show how much of different languages English speakers can learn in 100 hours.

I think it would take the Malaysians the same time to learn English as it takes the Indonesians. This is because the present Indonesian language was taken from an old Malayan trading language. Malaysians use Latin script so could learn Esperanto at the same rate as Hungarians who also use Latin script but do not use Latin roots as Malaysians don't either.

I know an Indonesian, who learnt Esperanto by himself in only one year but he was exceptional because he could already speak over 10 languages.

Will you please blog more Reseach results with links to their findings?

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Dianne Lukes
11/03/2012 07:46

I wonder if the readers of this blog site know they could find out a lot more about teaching primary school teachers how to teach Esperanto in their classes at www.mondeto.com ? It is another interesting web site designed by Penny Vos.

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11/27/2012 08:14

This is a fantastic website and I can not recommend you guys enough. I really appreciate your post. It is very helpful for all the people on the web.

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12/14/2012 23:46

Great to read about brain building.where should i get more information on this topic?

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Klaus Santozki
01/14/2013 04:24

ESPERANTO - la ponto inter la homoj.

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You're so cool! I don't suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. really thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

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It was a great. Enjoyed reading it. Thanks

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03/12/2013 11:14

I am have been studying this topic for a long time. You have provided great information in you post and some things I have not seen in other content I have read by others.

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03/22/2013 02:17

This is very interesting. I didn't think that this is really so. Maybe it's time to start learning a new language! Never too late!? I know where I can start:)

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04/16/2013 19:38

Very interesting discussion glad that I came across such informative post. Keep up the good work friend. Glad to be part of your net community.

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04/16/2013 19:39

Quite an excellent page you've shared in here. Impressive in here indeed. thanks for sharing..

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Hans Oldhage
01/01/2014 05:56

Thank you Penny for this useful blog.
Dankon Penny por tiu uzebla blogo.

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W
02/24/2014 22:53

Sed se la infano parolas nur 1 lingvo denaske (t.e. Esperanto) - kiel?

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Katjo
03/09/2014 13:39

Cxu vi permesu ke mi uzas vian imagon (100 horoj) en prezento al la Ligo de Lingvaj Instruistoj en Kalifornia-Sxtato?

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03/10/2014 18:57

Jes, tutkore! Bondeziroj al vi :-)

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