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Study: Bilinguals Negotiate Between Two Views

  • VOA News

FILE - A student, who speaks Spanish at home, works on a lesson during an English class at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, Florida.

FILE - A student, who speaks Spanish at home, works on a lesson during an English class at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, Florida.

According to a new study, speaking two languages may influence how people perceive the world around them by putting a different emphasis on certain reactions.

Psycholinguists from Britain's Lancaster University say bilinguals may have a more flexible way of thinking by paying attention to things inherently emphasized in different cultures.

They say that for instance Japanese speakers usually group objects by material they are made of instead of their shape, while Korean speakers emphasize on how objects fit together.

Likewise, the Russian language has different words and a more precise distinction between light blue and dark blue colors, while the English language does not.

Another test showed that after being distracted in one language bilinguals tended to have their responses influenced by the second language. In other words, English-German speakers acted like typical Germans when their English was “blocked” by repeating strings of numbers in German. The same worked the other way around.

Lancaster University scientists say the conclusion is that bilinguals have ability to negotiate between different perspectives in reaching conclusions about the world around them.

Critics say the tests were only laboratory experiments and the findings may not apply to everyday life situations.

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