Inquiry, Discovery, and the Bilingual Brain

Excerpted from remarks by Incoming Head of School Chris Livaccari, following his talk on What Every Parent Need to Know About Language Acquisition and Chinese Literacy on February 8, 2018

It was wonderful to spend some time with you talking about language acquisition, the benefits of a bilingual education, and the global competencies that are essential for success in a rapidly changing world. Your questions and comments led to quite a stimulating conversation about why we’re all so committed to nurturing the next generation of bilingual, global thinkers.

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Please see the adjacent summary of highlights from my presentation, and a list of key resources for learning more about bilingual education and Mandarin immersion.

 See our list of  KEY RESOURCES  and recommended reading on immersion education

See our list of KEY RESOURCES and recommended reading on immersion education

The benefits of a bilingual education (and of a bilingual brain!) are well-documented. They range from positive correlations with executive functioning in the brain to advantages in staving off the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. We all know that mental flexibility and the ability to conceptualize problems in new and creative ways will be critical in the world that our children will face as they leave school, and that a bilingual education grounded in inquiry, discovery, and joyful learning is undoubtedly the best lever for creating this mental flexibility.

While monolingual people often take language for granted, multilingual people are consistently comparing, contrasting, and recognizing patterns and continuities in the languages they speak, read, and think in. The brain’s ability to code switch between different languages, to understand how meaning translates (or does not translate) between languages, and to understand how different languages create meaning in different ways (through grammar, tone, or syntax, for example) are essential elements in the recipe for success that is a bilingual education.

I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations we started on Thursday evening, and to joining you on this incredible journey toward a future that speaks Chinese!