Being Bilingual Improves Cognitive Capabilities

Recent media reports citing scientific research on the cognitive benefits of bilingualism show a movement toward embracing a more multilingual society. Contrary to widespread belief during much of the 20th century, being bilingual positively affects the ability to plan, solve problems and perform mentally demanding tasks, according to a recent New York Times article:

Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise.

To learn more about how “the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition,” read Yudhijit Bhattacharjee’s article Why Bilinguals Are Smarter.

Parents and Educators, we want to read your comments! What have you noticed about your or your children’s cognition as you/they grapple between two or more languages?

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Our “Best of” Chinese New Year Posts- Traditions, Books, Food and More!

Happy Year of the Dragon!  As Lunar New Year celebrations continue, we wanted to highlight our “Best of” Chinese New Year posts which discuss holiday traditions, share our favorite books for kids, making dumplings, jiao tze, and more!

 Celebrating Chinese New Year Traditions

Traditional Foods of Chinese New Year

How to Make Jiaozi, Chinese Dumpling Recipe

Giving Red Envelopes (Hong Bao) on Chinese New Year

Kid Lit:  Books about Chinese New Year

We’re also pleased to offer a Chinese New Year and New Release special offer!  Save 30% on Let’s Go Guang! products using the promo code:  Vol2CNY at our aha!Chinese store!

Happy Year of the Dragon!

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Happy Chinese New Year! Ring in Dragon Year with the Newest Let’s Go Guang!

Happy Chinese New Year!  新年快乐! 

They’re back!   On this auspicious day we launch Journey to the Terracotta City, our Chinese dragon Guang’s latest adventure!

Follow Ling and Kai as they travel to China’s ancient captial, Xi’an, with Guang.  Learn about the legacy of China’s first emperor, from constructing the Great Wall of China to buidling the magnificent tombs of the terracotta soldiers.  Over 110 Chinese vocabulary words and expressions are taught throughout the story, mini-lessons and songs.  Kids LOVE Let’s Go Guang!  Check out the Journey to the Terracotta City promotional video!

To celebrate our new release we’re offering a special promotion – 30% discount off of Let’s Go Guang! educational products.  Use Promo Code:  Vol2CNY at our shop.  Click here for the full version of our launch letter.

Sign up to receive future aha!News and Special Offers. We promise not to share your email. You can always drop us a line at feedback@ahachinese.com and please be sure to friend us on Facebook where we will be doing fun contests for the kids and giveaways in the coming months. Don’t miss the fun!

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Behind the Scenes at Our Visit to NYC’s MOCA with Tristin and Tyler

We had a blast during our visit to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) with 8 year old twins Tristin and Tyler of the “Tristin & Tyler’s Tales of the City” show!  We talked about Chinese New Year, why we love MOCA, and taught some Chinese along the way.  As detailed by their mom Tiffany, @TiffanysToyBox, here are some highlights from our visit below.  Stay tuned for our episode!

(Taken directly from Tiffany’s Take Behind the Scenes post on January 16, 2012)

Chinese New Year is January 23, 2012 and it’s the year of the Dragon! To celebrate, Tristin and Tyler went to the Musem of Chinese In America (MOCA) in Chinatown to learn more about Chinese culture and to meet with Karen Wu Audi, co-founder of aha!Chinese, a company that creates educational products that make learning the Chinese language and culture easy and fun for kids.

WHAT’S COOL!

Let’s Go Guang! Chinese for Children learning kit: aha!Chinese has created a fun learning kit that includes a DVD with animated stories, an audio CD, reference guide, a story book and two sets of flashcards for practice and game playing. Learning Chinese has been such a fun challenge for Tristin and Tyler!

WHY LEARN CHINESE?

Why not? I am a big supporter of anything that exposes the boys to another culture — something new that they will not learn at home.

CHECK OUT MOCA

We were happy to visit MOCA and learn all about Chinese culture with Karen as our guide! Not only is MOCA an amazing museum with great interactive exhibits on Chinese history and culture, MOCA has lots of fun family events including Famly Drop-in Arts and Crafts days to celebrate the Lunar New Year! YAY CRAFTS!

Make sure to head over to MOCA on either January 16th or the 23rd between 2-4pm to learn how to make a Zodiac Animal Puppet! Visit the MOCA website here for more information.

Make sure to tune into our episode this week with Karen at MOCA! AND visit www.ahachinese.com to get 25% off of aha!Chinese products by using the promotional code T&TSave25!

How cool is that!?

STAY TUNED!

To Learn More about:

Tristin and Tyler at:  http://www.tristinandtyler.com

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York City at: http://www.mocanyc.org/

 

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Best Online Retailers for Chinese Language and Cultural Products

With the holidays quickly approaching, you’re probably thinking about great gift ideas, including ones that might create a little foreign language fun for the young people in your lives. The following is our list of favorite online retailers of materials to learn Chinese.

China Sprout (www.chinasprout.com) China Sprout is one of the largest distributors of both Chinese educational and cultural materials. It originally began as a distributor to service the needs of families with children adopted from China, and has grown to address the needs of all families interested in Chinese and Chinese culture.

China Books (www.chinabooks.com) China Books is the oldest and largest publisher, importer and distributor of books from and about China to North America. Founded in 1960 by Henry Noyes, the son of missionaries in China, China Books was the sole provider of books from Mainland China before the 1980s.

Child Book (www.childbook.com) Child Books is the distributor of a large amount of quality materials to teach Chinese. The owners started the company as they were trying to raise their own child to be trilingual in America.

Asian Parent (www.asianparent.com) Asian Parent has a large selection of Chinese books for children up to 12 years old.  The founder grew the company out of her own love for books and love of reading to her 2 children.

Cheng & Tsui (www.cheng-tsui.com) Cheng & Tsui is a leading publisher of language textbooks for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic.

Asia for Kids (www.afk.com) Founded in 1994, Asia for Kids sells over 3000 materials to learn Asian languages and about the different Asian cultures. It also produces and publishes a number of its own materials.

Panda Books (www.ipandabook.com) Panda Books distributes over 1000 Chinese materials, including all of the latest cartoon series out of China. In addition to their online store, they also hold Chinese language book fairs at schools throughout the SF Bay Area.

Finally, we won’t be shy and will add ourselves to the list.

 aha!Chinese (www.ahachinese.com)  identifies, creates, and distributes distinctive educational products that make learning Chinese language fun and easy.  Let’s Go Guang! Chinese for Children is our multi-award winning Chinese language series.

Give the gift of a second language!

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Kids Learn Chinese Culture – Discover “Journey to the Terracotta City” with Let’s Go Guang!

In the soon-to-be released Volume II in our Chinese for Children learning series, Journey to the Terracotta City, join Ling and Kai as they travel through time to ancient China with Guang, the Chinese dragon! They’ll visit Xi’an, in northern China, to help Guang paint the Terracotta Warriors. Together, they’ll learn their colors and other important words and phrases. First, let’s find out more about this intriguing underground tomb, listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1987 and now considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.

China’s 1st emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259 BC – 210 BC), ascended the throne at the age of 13. He soon ordered the construction of a Terracotta Army made of more than 8,000 life-size warriors, chariots and horses–all arranged in battle formations–to be buried in order to protect him in the afterlife. It took 11 years and 700,000 workers to finish. Many workers were entombed after completion so they couldn’t reveal its secrets!

Archaeological excavation began after farmers uncovered pottery while digging for a well near the royal tomb in 1974. The following year the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses was built on site, which is now combined with the nearby Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum. Since the wooden roofs covering the soldiers collapsed, none of the crushed figures were found intact. Imagine how hard it would be to reconstruct them all!

Here are a few more interesting facts:

  • The head, limbs and torsos were created separately and later assembled, then placed in several pits in military formation, according to rank and duty.
  • The soldiers are each different: their height, faces, hairstyles and armor–according to rank.
  • Notice the open hands of the soldiers that originally held real weapons–spears, swords, or crossbows. These were either looted long ago or disintegrated over time.
  • The figures were also originally painted with bright pigments, but most of the color faded or flaked off when exposed by excavation. You can still see a bit of color on a handful of statues.
  • There has been some debate over the statues’ purpose. One researcher believes the pits where the clay figures were discovered were the ruins of a military school, not guardians in the after-life.
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30 Essential Mandarin Phrases for Kids Learning Chinese

Learning to speak a foreign language isn’t simple, but teaching kids Chinese is easier than you may think. Children absorb language like sponges–especially if it’s fun. With our multimedia learning kit, children watch, listen, repeat and sing as they learn Mandarin Chinese and love it!

Since all kids learn differently, we use a variety of methods–including illustrated books with corresponding DVDs, audio CDs and game cards–to reinforce children’s Chinese vocabulary. Each volume in the series builds upon the words and phrases learned in the prior one.

Here are 30 essential Chinese phrases to get started, all from Volumes I & II of Let’s Go Guang! Just click on each word to hear the pronunciation.

 

Chinese Characters Pinyin (Chinese Romanization) English
1 你好 nǐ hǎo Listen Hello
2 再见 zài jiàn Listen Good-bye
3 你 叫 什 么名 字 nǐ jiào shén me míng zi? Listen What’s your name?
4 我叫__ wǒ jiào__ Listen My name is__
5 好 不 好 hǎo bù hǎo Listen Okay? All right?
6 我要 wǒ yào Listen I want (to)
7 我不要 wǒ bù yào Listen I don’t want (to)
8 谢谢 xiè xie Listen Thank-you
9 不 要 客 气 bú yào kè qi Listen You’re welcome
10 我 走 了 wǒ zǒu le Listen I’m leaving
11 走吧 zǒu ba Listen Let’s go
12 对 不 起 duì bu qǐ Listen I’m sorry
13 hǎo Listen Good
14 很好 hěn hǎo Listen Very good
15 好棒 hǎo bàng Listen Great
16 好玩 hǎo wán Listen Fun
17 你 在哪里? nǐ zài​ nǎ​ lǐ? Listen Where are you?
18 我在这里 wǒ​ zài zhè​ lǐ Listen I’m here
19 那是什么? nà shì shén me? Listen What is that?
20 那是__ nà shì__ Listen That is__
21 这是 什么? zhè shì shén me? Listen What this?
22 这是__ zhè shì__ Listen This is__
23 duì Listen Right/correct
24 我喜欢 wǒ xǐ huan Listen I like
25 我不喜欢 wǒ bù xǐ huan Listen I don’t like
26 我明白 wǒ míng bái Listen I understand
27 我不明白 wǒ bù míng bái Listen I don’t understand
28 没问题 méi wèn tí Listen No problem
29 这是我的 zhè shì wǒ de Listen This is mine
30 那是你的 nà shì nǐ de Listen That is yours
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When’s the Best Time to Expose Kids to a Second Language?

For those parents who have been debating over what is the right age to introduce their children to a second language, the answer seems to be:  Start them from 0-6 months old.

Children raised in bilingual homes don’t suffer from “language confusion” or delayed speech development, Perri Klass, MD explains in a New York Times article.  In fact, babies brought up in a bilingual environment can actually discern phonetic differences between the languages as early as 10 -12 months old and “keeps them open” unlike monolingual babies who show “perceptual narrowing.”  Additionally, bilingual babies are more “more cognitively flexible” than monolingual infants and possess high executive function skills.  What do your experiences show?

Source:  New York Times - Hearing Bilingual – How Babies Tell Languages Apart by Perri Klass, MD

 


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Are bilingual children smarter? 7 reasons to teach your child a second language: from the cognitive to cultural benefits

1. Bilingual babies develop specific cognitive functions for speech development.
According to researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, bilingual infants “can discriminate phonetic units from both languages with increasing age. Our results suggest that bilingual infants’ brain responses to speech differ from the pattern shown by monolingual infants.”

2. Bilingualism boosts brain performance: children who speak two languages multitask better.
According to Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, kids who use a second language are better than their monolingual peers at prioritizing. Why? They must retrieve specific semantic and syntactical rules from the intended language–a function of what she calls the brain’s “executive control system.”

3. Children who learn a second language think more creatively and flexibly.
According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, learning a second language at an early age gives children more flexibility in their thinking process. Developing a greater sensitivity to language and a better ear for listening, kids who learn another language also improve their understanding of their own. They do better in school and score higher on language tests, more able to fulfill high school and college language requirements.

 

4. Learning a second language can delay the onset of dementia.
According to UCLA scholar Jared Diamond, author of the article The Benefits of Multilingualism, studies show bilingualism can protect against symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Research suggests that bilingual speakers delay onset of the disease for an extra four years on average compared with those who speak only one language.

5. Studying a foreign language enhances cultural sensitivity and tolerance for differences.
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, research shows that positive “attitudes towards the target language community may be outcomes of second language learning.”  Whether passing your heritage language on to your children or teaching kids to embrace different ideas and customs, everyone benefits from learning the idioms, folk stories, musical traditions, literature and poetry of different cultures.

6. People who learn another language communicate more effectively across cultures.
All children learn the conversational rules and social discourses used for different settings–called “social registers.” Children who observe and practice this pragmatic knowledge in more than one language deal better with challenges communicating in a foreign country. Bilingual people are also more sensitive to the communication aspects of foreign speakers in their own country.

7. Being bilingual enhances the possibility for greater employment benefits in a global world.
According to futurist Paul Saffro, “children born today will spend part of their lives abroad, if they are successful professionals, in the same way their parents moved to different states.” Language and communication skills will help them attain prosperous careers–from transportation and tourism to administration, public relations, banking, law and education.

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PBS Parents: “Make it Fun!” says aha!Chinese Co-Founder Karen Wu Audi

PBS Parents interviewed aha!Chinese Co-Founder Karen Wu Audi for their recent piece “Ways to Introduce Your Kids to Foreign Languages.” by Grace Hwang Lynch (@hapamamagrace) Check out the full article for some useful tips but here’s an excerpt below:

Here’s some information on the most popular methods to help you find the right way for your child to learn another language.

  • Books and videos use your children’s reading and screen time to introduce them to the sounds and writing of other languages. Iria Nishimura, a native of Finland, sent her children to a Finnish language class when the family lived in the San Francisco Bay area. But their new hometown of Sacramento does not have such programs. Nishimura keeps up their exposure to the language by providing Finnish books and videos to her sons, who are now nine and six.
  • Speak to them if you are fluent in a foreign language. “Speaking another language at home was like eating or sleeping, part of our home life. Nothing to it. The kids have never commented to me if learning Finnish was hard or not,” says Nishimura. “When they talk to their friends, sometimes I hear them bragging about knowing another language.”
  • Travel to a foreign country so kids can experience other languages and cultures. Of course, this is not always possible, so what about visiting neighborhoods where other languages are spoken? “I encourage parents to make their children more aware of languages around them,” says Rhodes. She believes it’s important to start the conversation with kids about how interesting other languages are. “When you hear other languages, point out, ‘Oh wow, they’re saying hello, but they’re saying it differently.’” Also, learning about culture can make learning the language easier and more interesting.
  • Make it fun! When a child feels like they’re being taught something, they can tune out and become disinterested very quickly,” says Karen Wu Audi, cofounder of the aha! Chinese language program. “So instead, I’ve always tried to weave in learning naturally and make it fun at the same time.“”

Get more information about the multi-award winning  aha!Chinese language program, Let’s Go Guang! and save 20% now.  Stay tuned for the upcoming release of Journey to the Terracotta City this fall!

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