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Watch: Belgian academic explains why bilingual Welsh speakers are more creative

04 Dec 2021 4 minutes Read


A Belgian professor has explained why bilingual Welsh speakers tend to be more creative than those who only speak one language.

Catherine Bouko, a lecturer in multilingual communication at the University of Ghent, was asked by France 24 what were the main advantages of being bilingual.

She said that the expanded vocabulary that comes with bilingualism allows for “more creative semantic combinations” and used the Welsh language to illustrate her point.

“One of the main advantages of being bilingual is that we have found that bilingual people have a more creative mind,” she said. “More flexible, more open-minded.

“So to measure that, we ask questions to bilingual and non-bilingual people like ‘what can you do with a brick?’

“Bilingual people will give obvious answers like build a wall or build a barbeque but they will also give more eclectic answers like filling a mouse hole. So we have witnessed that bilingual people are more creative.

“It can also be explained by the fact that they have two words for one concept. So for example in Welsh, school is said ‘ysgol’. But ysgol also means ‘a ladder’.

“So, one word describes two different realities. School and ladder. That allows for more creative semantic combinations to be made.”

Julie Sieger, the France 24 Health Editor explained: “So so more vocabulary you have the more broad your thoughts will be and the more imaginative you’ll be.”

“Studies do agree that bilingual children are better at staying focussed on one goal while remaining flexible about how to achieve that goal,” she said. “That’s huge because it’s probably one of the main keys to success in life.”

She added that in Alzheimer’s patients the symptoms appeared in bilingual people five years later than in monolingual people.

‘Positive’

In September researchers at Bangor University revealed that bilingual children have more efficient thinking skills compared to children who only use one language.

By introducing a radical new method, researchers were able to measure children’s thinking skills more accurately and comprehensively than ever before, the study published in Behavior Research Methods shows.

The findings show that bilingual children are on average 6.5% more efficient in their thinking skills than monolingual children.

Athanasia Papastergiou, Lecturer in the Linguistics department of Bangor University and lead author on the publication, said it was “very exciting” to develop this new approach to the study of bilingual children.

“I hope that these positive results will help to allay any possible fears about bringing up children bilingually and highlight the benefits of doing so,” she said.

The research team, in collaboration with Dr Vasileios Pappas from the Kent Business School, University of Kent, achieved its breakthrough by adapting methodology from the field of economics to the study of bilingualism.

The project analysed data from children educated through the medium of both Greek and English in UK schools, in comparison with monolingual children.

Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and senior academic in the project, said: “There is an obvious advantage in being able to communicate in more than one language. Our findings show that learning two languages can have even more benefits for children’s development.

“We asked children, for example, to remember and repeat as many numbers as they can, to ignore irrelevant information, and to shift quickly between different tasks: bilingual children were better overall than monolingual children.

“These results are important for us here in Wales and indeed for bilingual communities across the world.”

The team will now expand its research to other languages, with a new project examining language and thinking skills in English-speaking children attending Welsh-medium education.

The study was co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and the Department of Linguistics in the School of Arts, Culture and Language at Bangor University.


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Grayham Jones
5 months ago

Very true welsh is the language of wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh start fighting for your children and grandchildren future in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
5 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

You never seem to write in it though?

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

He only seems to know one line in English too…..and copy & pastes it over & over…..

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

Aren’t you pleased he’s not “forcing it down your throat”? Anyway, how is that relevant to the article?

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Reynolds

I like him. He has an unwavering conviction. It is a simple foundational truth that deserves repetition, especially in the language of the majority of our people. Da iawn ti, Grayham.

Mathew Rees
Mathew Rees
5 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Thew moderator needs to step in and deactivate this man’s profile

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Mathew Rees

No need for cancel culture here. If you don’t like, or are bored with his posts, just skip over them. Where’s the problem?

Philip Hews
Philip Hews
5 months ago

My family are full of Welsh heritage here in Liverpool

Philip Hews
Philip Hews
5 months ago

And… (sorry about the robot thingy posting part of my comment too early). I’m trilingual, I did learn some Welsh from a teacher as was aware of the heritage but, ended up speaking 2 Germanic languages. I have since learned the Welsh alphabet/pronunciations. it is depressing all the anti English comments to be found here all the time, when so many of us support Wales and have Welsh heritage. As a tourist guide I have found that the painting over of the English part of a bilingual tourist sign only makes it difficult for Europeans to find what they’re looking… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
5 months ago
Reply to  Philip Hews

I think that reactions to Wales’ treatment by England are inevitable, Philip, bearing in mind that much of Welsh history, as well as current issues, are about the country’s relationship with England.
The very best of luck with learning Welsh. You’ll have no trouble finding classes in Liverpool.

Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago

Words, and the concepts they embody are like little knives slicing up the universe into managable chunks. The smaller and finer the chunks, the more vidid the mosaics our minds can construct. A wide vocabulary in one language can help – but a second language will provide a new pallate of colour and texture not available in the first.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
5 months ago

The English talk about bilingualism like it has never existed before.

Elizabeth Moussa
Elizabeth Moussa
5 months ago

The example given ysgol /School -Ladder is Ystol Totally different .

Geraint Jones
Geraint Jones
5 months ago

In the north, yes, that’s correct, but in the south, ysgol is the word for both.

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
5 months ago

It’s ysgol for me on both, Aberystwyth boy ,so not just the North.

Keith Evans
Keith Evans
5 months ago

I served in the UN mission in Kosovo,I’m bilingual,Welsh/ English,I was useless at other languages in school.However when in Kosovo I picked up a little Albanian and a lot of Serbian never ever fluent but confident enough to travel solo on buses from Kosovo to Belgrade stopping at many café’s and making changes.I did find that in my demographic ( non academic) I picked up things quicker than my monoglot colleges Welsh, Scottish,N Irish and English.My conclusion is we teach a far to academic version of languages,one that can be assessed by exams,rather than just teaching it as a tool… Read more »

Kevin Morgan
Kevin Morgan
5 months ago

I guess some common knowledge is taken for granted. When I was in school some quarter of a century ago in the South Wales Valleys it was well known common knowledge from observations that children who were educated in a Welsh speaking school were typically a bit slower developing communication skills due to learning everything twice, predominantly in Welsh but they also needed to learn the same in English aswell given much of south Wales speaks English rather than Welsh, essentially meaning the Welsh first language speakers were taught twice, which is a form of reinforced learning that builds more… Read more »

Kevin Morgan
Kevin Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Morgan

I should add that a door can degrade and warp from being too dry just as it can from the conditions being too wet… The forging of too many pathways can easily become a maze. If you have multiple staircases leading to the same room, the que outside may look smaller, but the que still exists just outside the room that has a finite amount of space to accommodate people. The best ques are typically less tedious when they are flowing. Some doors seem large to some but small to others. If you have many thoughts floating around outside the… Read more »

Kevin Morgan
Kevin Morgan
5 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Morgan

When a bath is filled too high some pressure will be relieved as the water is displaced via the overflow. In the case of neural networks, stress and trauma or a pool of water in natures bath overflows, relief channels can be dug out or forged by the water itself…

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