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How Learning Two Distinct Languages Affects and Improves the Mind

23 July 2015

One of the aspects of Dr Peeter Mehisto’s ‘Benefits of Bilingualism’ presentation to staff touched on the ways in which the mind is affected and improved by the discipline of learning two distinct languages.

  • Benefit of Bilungual to the mind

Through his presentation and by my own additional reading, I have been struck and ignited by the depth of study and scope of opportunity that the field of neuroscience affords us as educators. This has also reminded me of the work carried out over several decades by Dr Howard Gardner.

It was Dr Gardner, now Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the US, who first identified the characteristics of multiple intelligences that are widely recognised in the field of human behaviour and achievement. The theory states something that is easily observable in life, that all people have different strengths and aptitudes. As schools, we seek to develop these aptitudes to help create well-rounded, engaged and successful individuals. But in order to do this, each individual must be known for their own abilities, interests and needs. The teachers’ responsibility is to get to know and nurture each individual student in his or her entirety, to tailor what they teach and how they respond to each student to best meet the student’s needs. The art of the teacher is to conceal the art of doing just that. It is all about meaningful empathy and genuine relationship.

Equally, it is the role of the student to work at all areas of their personality, character and abilities. Some may be more developed than others. A child who just focuses on one area of their ability, because it is easier or more enjoyable would be like a body builder doing weights on only one part of the body. But even when faced with something less familiar or even uncomfortable, students can, and should, improve through their own attention and through teacher support they receive. Gold refined in the melting pot is more pure and the skills and talents honed through hard work, perseverance and determination are also more satisfying and lasting.

It is wonderful to see the way that in language development significant progress is being made as students recognise the challenge, and focus their attention. We will continue to explore all of these additional aptitude areas in the coming years as we grow as a school. It is an exciting time to be involved in teaching, learning and in the nurturing of young students.

Mr Mark Sayer – Principal of BVIS Hanoi – Royal City Campus