Posts Tagged ‘Bilingualism’

It’s Never Too Late to Learn a Foreign Language: Foreign Language Acquisition in Late Adulthood

November 12th, 2022 No comments

Speaking of learning a second language, do you think about the common saying “the earlier the better”? Have you ever wanted to start learning a new language and then stopped because of this saying? If your answer is yes, I suggest you cross the saying out of your mind because yes, learning a language is hard – at pretty much any age past 3 – but it IS still possible. Therefore, age should never be a critical determining factor when deciding whether to learn a foreign language or not. In fact, we should all start learning a new language for the sake of healthy and active aging because there are plenty of cognitive benefits in late adulthood if you can speak more than one language. And, many seniors are participating in foreign language learning classes in third-age universities around the globe right now.

Look how engaged the senior students are in a second language learning classroom in Heredia, Costa Rica. Picture retrieved from:
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Categories: Aging, Education Tags: ,

Bilinguals’ twisted tongues: the Tip-Of-the-Tongue phenomenon in other language systems and bilingualism

December 8th, 2020 No comments

My friend is not a native English speaker. I still remember his most funny yet embarrassing moment when we were both freshmen. He was introducing himself in front of the whole dorm, and I know he wanted to say he’s hard-working or diligent, because I almost heard him uttering “di”. But he seemed to be suddenly forgetting the word. Instead, after a long pause, he said something like “I’m a detergent person”. Everyone looked confused, and I couldn’t help laughing. I totally feel him. As a bilingual, I’m just too familiar with this tip-of-the-tongue state. From time to time, I lose the English word I was trying to say (especially during a zoom meeting, ah, guess how embarrassing it could be), and I would burst into a silent cry, not again! I know I know it; I know the corresponding word in my first language, and I can almost see it in the printed form in my mind. Yet I just can’t pull it out from my memory. 

A comic illustrating the tip of the tongue effect…it’s just so annoying!

When you are reading this blog, does it come to your mind that you have experienced this Tip-Of-the-Tongue (TOT) effect in your own life? You are nodding and smiling, because even if English is your native language, you know that annoying feeling as well as I do. In cognitive psychology, the TOT phenomenon refers to when people fail to retrieve a target word, yet the feeling of retrieval is imminent. In other words, you are 100% sure you know it somewhere in your mind, and you can even give the first few syllabus or letters, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t remember it. You might even feel painful and anxious, because you are just so eager to know what it is exactly. Why are we interested in this topic? Well, the TOT states may not influence a native speaker’s life too much, but that unsatisfying feeling is still bothersome; For bilinguals and second-language learners, on the other hand, TOTs not only bring embarrassment and hurt confidence, it also happens more often. So it would be useful to ask why we experience it at all, how it would affect us if we are going to learn a second language, and what it reveals about our fundamental cognitive system.  

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It’s on the Ttt….Tip de mi Lengua: Differences in the Tip of the Tongue States for Bilingual and Monolinguals

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Picture this: you run into someone you met last week. You remember you had a great conversation with them and got along well. But, there’s one problem. You can’t, for the life of you, remember their name.  You know it started with an “A” and was a relatively short name, but you can’t quite say the name out loud as you greet them. It’s RIGHT there though, on the tip of your tongue. Luckily, another mutual friend comes up to both of you and says, “Oh, how do you know Abigail?” Ah, yes, Abigail Rhodes. You remember now.

We all know that feeling that accompanies not being able to articulate something we are confident we know or should know. And, there’s a name for that feeling: it’s called the tip of the tongue phenomenon (TOT).  The TOT occurrence is a cognitive bias that is named after the colloquial phrase “it’s on the tip of my tongue” and helps to provide insights into why, even if we know something, we are sometimes unable to verbalize our answer.

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Why are Tongue Twisters so Difficult to Pronounce?

November 24th, 2014 4 comments

Tongue twisters are words, phrases or sentences composed of similar consonantal sounds that make it difficult to articulate. For example, try reading some of these out loud three times as fast as you can:

Freshly fried fresh flesh.

A bloke’s back bike brake block broke.

The soldiers shouldered shooters on their shoulders.

Fred fed Ted bread, and Ted fed Fred bread.


You might remember doing some of these as a child as fun little games for kids to do at parties or in the lunchroom. However, from the perspective of a language researcher tongue twisters can actually help us understand how we produce language.

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“To help Dora climb, you gotta say subida. Can you say subida?” – Boots in Dora the Explorer

May 1st, 2014 2 comments


Subida! Subida! Climb! Like Dora in the children’s television show Dora the Explorer, approximately 20% of the American population speaks more than one language fluently. (Grosjean, 2012) They are able to watch Spanish soap operas without subtitles, read the Harry Potter series in German, and ultimately pass along the language to their children. In schools across the country, students are learning a second language every day in the classroom to become bilingual.

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