Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

It's no secret that I'm chomping at the bit to be a mom. (The term is "Baby Fever") I've got the nursery somewhat planned, I've got the pre-school picked out...I've even got *GASP* names. I've employed the Military's tactic here, though: Don't ask. Don't tell. I like them, husband likes them. Your opinion is Moo. Unless you think they're cute, at which point you can gush all you like.

I did the math a little while ago and I've been actively taking care of other people's children (more than one at a time, most often) for the past 18 years. I've got a minor in Early Childcare Development....which makes me a bitch to hang out with when your child is involved. I can't help it. I'm sorry.

Anyway, saw this in the new Psychology Today:

Add this to the fact that anything a child learns by the age of 6 is hardwired into their brains..for LIFE...and I'm even more determined to polish up at least two more languages (Swiss-German and either French or Spanish) before I start popping out kids.

Since it's tiny, I'll give you the bullets.

* Languages learned before the age of 5 are represented differently in the brain than are later languages. For example, they trigger sensory associations more actively. Researchers can detect the native tongues among highly proficient bilinguals simply by monitoring neural activity as subject read.

* Learning a second language can help you out decades down the road. On average, lifelong bilinguals incur dementia four years later than others, adding to the evidence that lifestyle can be more neuroprotective than drugs.

* Don't worry if Johnny (NOT on Emily's name list) loses some English vocab on his trip to France. New research finds that it's not from atrophy of the old tongue; the new one is running interference. To better learn new labels for things, the brain suppresses previously learned terms.

* Infants as young as 4 months can tell when a speaker switches languages just by watching the mouth - a marker of how important visual cues are to language learning. But by 8 months only babies raised in bilingual households have this ability; without continued exposure some perceptual abilities wane.

* Cultural cues such as national flags can trigger different values and even different elements of your personality. Language acts as one cue: researchers find that Spanish-English bilinguals are more assertive and achievement-oriented when using English, which seems in line with American culture.

* Babies in bilingual households are slow to develop the ability to discriminate subtle differences between similar-sounding words such as "bad" and "dad." Instead, they devote attention to the meanings of words in their expanding vocabularies.

This reminds me of a joke that I heard of those Funny Because It's True ones:

A person who speaks two languages is bilingual.
A person who speaks three languages is tri-lingual.
A person who speaks more than 2 or 3 languages is a polyglot.
A person who speaks one language is...American.

Word. Time to go make myself smarter. As if I needed incentive: Mary-Louise Parker's character on the West Wing...ok MOST of the characters on the West Wing make me feel dumb. For reals, yo. So we watch. I am inspired. I do another Swiss-German lesson. And I'm considering taking some cont.ed classes in Furniture design. Because that would be rad.

And now I'm hunger. Have some sexy Swiss-German...Roger Federer:

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