Language Advantage Inc. Language training in Toronto and Montreal
Language Advantage - French Spanish Manderin English training in Toronto and Montreal
Language Advantage - French Spanish Manderin English training

Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm M-F


Toronto ON, Canada


Language Advantage Inc. - On-site corporate language training in Toronto and Montreal including French Spanish Mandarin and English

Newsletter / Blog

April 2019

The future is here: scientists are reading minds.


Researchers have now uncovered how to decode thoughts and turn them into verbal speech.

The breakthrough.

Recent studies by neuro-engineers at Columbia University have rocked the science community. Researchers have discovered an innovative way to decipher internal thoughts. The technology will also allow them to translate thoughts into tangible and recognizable speech. Essentially, the team has designed a system that decodes brain activity into verbal communication.

How it works.

This research has spanned decades. It's been discovered that when people imagine talking there are specific patterns of activity that occur in the brain. These distinctive brain patterns are also the same when we talk, listen to someone else speak, or just imagine that we're listening. Neuro-engineers at Columbia has been attempting to decode these patterns to decipher them into speech. They hope that eventually this translation can happen automatically.

The technology that is currently being tested is a vocoder. This computer algorithm is actually used by people all over the world on a daily basis. It's the same technology that makes Apple's Siri understand respond to verbal questions. Scientists are attempting to get the same technology to interpret brain activity.

Epileptic research.

Dr. Mesgarani, the principal investigator at Columbia has teamed up with Dr. Mehta, who currently works with epilepsy patients. They work closely with a group of these patients who listen to sentences while their brain activity is measured. The neural patterns that occur when they listen trains the vocoder to decipher and understand inner-thoughts.

They found that approximately 75% of the epileptic patients could understand and internally repeat the sounds that they heard. This is a significant leap in the research behind neural brain activity. Researchers are already preparing further tests to delve into more complicated words and sentences. In the future, this system could be used as an implant that translates thoughts into speech.

What this means.

According to Dr. Mesgarani, "losing the power of one's voice due to an injury or disease is so devastating...with the right technology, these people's thoughts could be decoded and understood by any listener". The future possibilities of this innovative technology are far-reaching. Researchers are already discussing how this system could be a game changer in the medical community. It would enable people who can't speak due to illness or injury to express themselves, connect with others, and improve their quality of life.

Source: Science Daily

March 2019

How Languages Shape The Way We Think


Learn more about how language can determine the way we perceive and feel about the world.

The number of languages and dialects from around the world is quite impressive, and when you consider ancient or forgotten languages, it's even more amazing. Today, we have more access to different languages than ever before.

Whether we catch a foreign film or travel overseas for a holiday, we might be exposed to different linguistic content. Many countries are multi-cultural hubs, populated by folks from different backgrounds, speaking different languages. Think about mainstream cities such as New York or London!

When picturing these diverse, multi-cultural cities, it's interesting to think about language. How does it affect the way we see the world?


Languages are living things, meaning that their vocabulary can change over time. In addition to that, various communities and social groups might actually speak differently, due to various sub-slangs and other linguistic circles. For instance, young people might express themselves differently when compared to a much older generation. The culture and environment around us also directly impact our language. It's a fascinating field of study, which is still in its early stages.


The language we speak influences many different things. It can impact the way that we think about time, space, and even colors!

There was a recent study that compared the way different people perceive the color blue. Individuals from English-speaking countries couldn't detect a gradual color change from light to dark blue. However, participants from Russia could readily identify this categorical change. The study suggests that the people who came from a Russian language background could identify the color change quicker. The reason? Possibly because they had different words to specifically categorize different shades of blue. Their language had a more accurate degree of depth when describing various shades of the color, as opposed to chalking them all down to the same word.

People who speak different languages focus on different things, depending on the words or sentence structure available to them. It influences our thought process and our feelings.

Space and time.

There was a recent study focused on an Australian indigenous community whose members didn't use the words "right" and "left". Instead, they used compass directions in their daily interactions. For instance, every time they would greet each other they would respond by saying which orientation they were walking in. Conversely, English speakers wouldn't rely so much on that. Even if someone would ask an English speaker for directions, it would invariably involve the words "right" and "left," rather than "west" or "south."

The bottom line is that the way those indigenous people use compass directions in their language has a profound impact on how they move in the landscape.


Gender can play a significant role across many languages in cultures. In languages such as German, Italian, and Spanish nouns are gendered. This means that there are masculine and feminine words, rather than neutral terms. For instance, in the Italian language, the word beer is "Birra" which is a feminine noun. The Italian word for wine is "vino", which is a masculine noun.

Research indicates that the way that native speakers describe these objects depends on the gender of the noun. For example, "vino" may be described as strong and full-bodied, which are more masculine words. "Birra" may be described as "light" and "bubbly", which are more feminine characteristics.

In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly clear that language has a deep impact on the way we think, describe, and feel about the world.

Source: How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky

February 2019

Settlement and Integration Needs of Skilled Immigrants in Canada

Understanding the challenges and obstacles qualified immigrants might face when they look for employment and settle into a new country.

Canada has one of the highest rates of migration in the whole of North America. The country has a diverse, multi-cultural population. In fact, Canada is quite well-known for its willingness to welcome most immigrants. The best thing is, the government actually does so with open arms, understanding immigration as an asset. Is it just wishful thinking, or is there some truth in such a glowing reputation?

Common knowledge is, skilled immigrants have a rather uncomplicated time when undergoing the process of settling in Canada. According to many experts, everything should be smooth sailing after an initial period of adjustment. Having said that, many immigrants might experience a different scenario. There are some obstacles that might prevent them from succeeding and integrating fully into the local society.

Canada has been highly praised for its Federal Skilled Worker Program. Unfortunately, there are many contrasting statistics concerning the social and economic status of immigrants who are new to the country. Many barriers exist, which might hinder the integration process, and in some cases, such barriers might actually harm an immigrant's chances of success.

Immigration is seen as a huge asset by the Canadian government, and rightfully so. The influx of skilled workers, providing a fix for issues such as decreasing workforce with specialized skills, as well as aging population and diminishing birth rates. Ever since a radical policy change starting from the late 60s, Canada has widely utilized immigration as a resource, and as a solution to the aforementioned issues. As a result, the country embraced skilled immigrants with open arms, which went on to fulfill many socio-economic needs.

The problem is that although the current bureaucracy does facilitate the immigration of individuals with specialized skills, it does not necessarily ensure that such individuals will be able to integrate in a seamless manner. In some cases, immigrants might suffer from a lack of information or resources prior to their arrival in Canada. Without proper information and tools, even skilled immigrants might struggle to place a foothold in the local market and seize job opportunities that would suit their qualifications and skills. Many immigrants might not be familiar with job searching strategies and other social and ethical customs, which might affect their ability to find work.

Experts suggest that receiving briefing and information before the move to Canada might better prepare these people for their start of a rewarding professional life in the country.

Arguably, one of the biggest struggles to overcome is related to linguistic skills. Even with high-level qualifications, skilled immigrants might struggle to find employment without being proficient in the local language.

In addition to understanding day-to-day communication, skilled immigrants also have another challenge. In fact, many specialized industries have specific insider jargon or professional terminology that might be difficult to grasp for a non-native speaker without advanced communication skills. For this reason, a gap in cross-linguistic communication, and even cross-cultural misunderstanding might affect one's ability to find employment.

In conclusion, skilled immigrants might greatly benefit from access to information before they move to Canada. In addition to that, they might benefit from linguistic training, including specialized classes relating to their particular industry or specialization. Such resources aren't always easy to implement on a large governmental scale. Canada already understands that immigrants are the future, and this is already a huge step in the right direction! There is still a lot that can be done to improve the possibilities and career options for skilled immigrants.

Source: MDPI Social Science Review of May publication 2018

November 2018

How Learning A New Language Improves Tolerance.

How piano training has been shown to improve word recognition.

Speaking multiple languages has often been praised as a very beneficial trait among kids, youths, and aging adults alike. Bilingual brains are usually better at focusing and responding to cognitive stimuli, and they are also more receptive towards progressive social values and cultural competence. That is, speaking more than a language can give an individual a different mindset, and a strong cross-cultural understanding, with the awareness that there are many different social groups that all interact together in our increasingly globalized world. In this day and age, cultural isolationism can be seen as detrimental for an individual's outlook on life, and even for his or her ability to thrive in an increasingly diverse environment, which often requires having to relate to people from all walks of life.

Learning a new language is actually a fantastic gateway into a different culture. Speaking a different language can open up to new ideas, new ways to perceive life, and more importantly, different cultural paradigms. By becoming more aware of other cultures, people can develop strong values of tolerance and respect towards others, particularly those who are different.

Source: The Conversation

October 2018

How music lessons can improve language skills.

How piano training has been shown to improve word recognition.

According to a recent study curated by a group of MIT researchers, there is a positive connection between musical skills and linguistic abilities. Throughout the span of the text, subject kindergarten kids who took piano lessons have reportedly shown a much better understanding of different pitches, and thus, a better ability to differentiate between spoken words and musical sounds in a process known as "word discrimination".

Word discrimination, the ability to distinguish actual words from other sounds and noises in the surrounding environment, is a vital component of an individual's linguistic development, and it appears that a stronger focus on musical training and pitch recognition can bring huge developmental benefits in this area.

The fact that musical training can have a positive effect on linguistic skills is not exactly news. In fact, the links between these two disciplines have been documented in various ways throughout the years, and extensively explored by scientists, scholars, and researchers. Having said that, this recent aforementioned MIT study represents a first observation of how taking musical lessons can indeed improve language processing and provide measurable benefits.

Specifically, piano lessons have helped kindergarten students improve the way they recognize pitches and patterns, allowing them to learn how recognize actual words quickly.

Although piano lessons did not offer significant improvements in a broad cognitive spectrum, children who undertook the lessons became significantly better at word discrimination, performing better than test subject who did not take piano lessons. This MIT research was performed in a school in Beijing, China. Following the findings, the school continued to offer musical training to its pupils.

As a consequence, the study has sparked a very positive wave of interests towards implementing music tutoring programs as a vital part of the linguistic development of kids, as opposed to simply focusing more on reading and spelling.

he new MIT study confirms previous findings, including the fact that musicians outperform non-musicians in various tasks, including reading comprehension, discerning speech from other background noise, as well as auditory processing. The groundbreaking "selling point" of the recent MIT research was definitely the fact that the new study applies a much deeper degree of control, not only focused on people with musical training but actually assign music lessons to the children involved, overseeing the process from an even earlier stage.

Source: MIT News

September 2018

Hearing and listening: what is the connection?

Learn how you can listen lending a right ear!

Whenever we hear someone's voice talking to us, we do not just hear sound coming out of their mouths. We hear words, we seek to identify emotion in the voice (distress, sadness, happiness, anxiety...) we even register contextual information (a voice holds many details about our interlocutor, including age, sex, cultural background, and more). In other words...we do not simply hear, we listen!

Listening is a true skill, which requires both intellectual and physical attributes. One needs to be mentally focused in order to listen and register information. However, the task of listening also requires sensitive hearing, which makes it possible to actually process such information with accuracy, and therefore, give it a meaning. Listening and recognizing patterns is a skill that humans likely evolved over thousands of years, and it is what makes us “social animals,” giving us the ability to communicate with others and get stronger by working as groups. Throughout our day-to-day routines, our focus is often undermined by various distractions, including environmental factors such as background noise and other interruptions. Such issues can affect the way children and adults listen, and more importantly, they can affect the kind of information and “meaning” they can get out of listening. According to audiologists from the Auburn University (Alabama, USA), kids and grown-ups alike seem to respond much better to information when they rely on their right ear for processing information and retaining the meaning of what they actually hear.

Throughout the testing process, participants were stimulated with audio information on both ears simultaneously aiming at their left and right ears. As it turned out, it seems that people seem way more receptive towards content received from the right side, even without any noticeable difference between left and right ear performances.

The so-called “right-ear advantage” is particularly prominent among individuals who are 13 years old or young, and it “normalizes” with age, although signs of it can still be observed in adult individuals. This normalization process could be related to the fact that as individuals age, they become more accustomed to listening and processing information, so they can focus their attention span in a more optimal capacity. Cognitive decline in elderly individuals is also a factor to consider, and it is really crucial to understand the relationship between cognitive skills and hearing in order to provide a more accurate assessment of the data.

Source: Science Daily

July 2018

How Being Bilingual May Be Helpful For Autistic Kids

According to scientific research, speaking multiple languages might help the human brain develop stronger cognitive flexibility. This is particularly helpful for children who are affected by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders).

For these kids, coping with different activities and shifting tasks can be quite challenging. However, being bilingual can help them respond better and adapt to the challenges more promptly.

The so-called "bilingual advantage" has been debated extensively towards the past few years in the scientific community. While many researchers believe that there is sufficient data to prove that speaking multiple languages can increase cognitive flexibility in autistic children, others recommend against exposing ASD children to more than one language to avoid further cognitive confusion and other learning difficulties.

Professor Aparna Nadig (School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University) recently authored a paper concerning this topic. The professor and her team observed 40 children (6 to 9 years old), with and without ASD. Some of them were bilinguals, where others could speak a single language exclusively, with ten kids per category.

All the children were given specific tasks through computer-generated tests. As it turns out, bilingual children with ASD seemed to outperform those with ASD who could only speak a single language, possibly hinting at the validity of the  "bilingual advantage" idea.

The sample pool for this research was relatively small, but the implications are very interesting and deserve further exploration and attention.

June 2018

Language trends: communication gets more streamlined as population increases.

According to researchers, languages tend to get more straightforward as a result of population growth.

According to recent research at Cornell University, there seems to be a link between population size and the characteristics of its languages. Countries with fewer speakers tend to have languages that don’t have a vibrant vocabulary, although the grammar might be more complicated. On the other hand, widespread languages, such as Mandarin or English, have incredibly vast vocabularies, while maintaining a relatively simple grammar structure.

The new study involves computer simulations, created by cognitive scientists who tested out the theory. Their results, which have been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, seem to show a trend towards linguistic simplification as languages acquire more speakers due to population growth.

The leading hypothesis concerning the above findings is related to the fact that it’s easier to learn new words, rather than mastering new grammar rules. When a language expands, welcoming in new speakers, it’s easier for them to memorize new phrases or words that they have been exposed to, instead of studying actual grammar and syntax. The phenomenon becomes even more intriguing in large urban areas, such as New York City, where there are many linguistic subgroups, even within the same language, which have evolved to reflect the culture of specific communities.

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, there seems to be a drive towards simplification concerning culture and language. However, communities can still save the nuances of their culture with the proper preservation efforts.

References: The Royal Society, " Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: How population size affects language"

March 2018

What are the perks of learning a second language?

In today's global economy, learning a second language could be a phenomenal asset, not only for individuals but also for the company as a whole. With better career prospects, commercial opportunity and development skills, the perks are very significant: read on to learn more.

Brain development.

Bilingual individuals are known for their heightened cognitive skills. Those who speak multiple languages need to use more brain-power and often excel at memory functions, multi-tasking and problem-solving since their brain often juggles between different language patterns.

In a professional environment, the above skills are highly valued commodities, which can create a competitive and successful business setting.

International networking and better professional relationships.

In a predominantly global economy, speaking a second language can be an open door for many opportunities. English is the lingua franca of the world, and most business persons can speak it. However, being able to communicate in a foreign language might still give you the edge and enhance relationships with international partners, employees, customers, and collaborators.

For this particular reason, many employers actually require candidates to speak a second language, or heavily invest in language training for their existing employees.

Life experiences.

People with the ability to speak a second language can enjoy a broader palette of life experiences.
In other words, if you are capable of speaking a second language, you might be able to make the most out of your trips, and enjoy an immersive experience of the country you visit, if you can speak the local language. With a different language in your mental arsenal, you can develop a different perspective on many things, gain a deeper understanding of many cultures, and expand beyond your day-to-day routine.

Confidence & Branding.

One of the more intangible benefits of speaking more than one language is the self-confidence and pride that stems from this impressive skill. For many people, the hard work and patience that comes with the ability to speak and write another language is something they wear with pride.

Employees who speak multiple languages can also enhance the brand image of a company, giving it a more international twist.

The aforementioned pointers represent only some of the many benefits and valuable opportunities that come with learning a second language. Today, language tuition is indeed one of the fastest-growing markets, as individuals look for ways to improve their professional appeal to potential employees, life skills, and self-confidence.

June 2017

The Emotional Brain and New Language Learning

Brain function continues to be researched and for good reason, as one mystery is solved others emerge and still others are being unravelled. In the past, learning a new language was thought to be possible only for young brains as neural connections are still evolving and are malleable, the scientific term is neuroplasticity. The adult brain was considered to be hard wired and therefore not receptive to new learning. This has been categorically disproven and while an adult learner may have to put in a bit more effort than a child they can learn a new language just as effectively.

There are other things to consider about the brain and learning in a general sense that also tie into learning a new language. For instance our emotions have been shown to heavily influence our ability to learn. When we are experiencing stress and other negative emotional states our ability to learn new things and even languages becomes more difficult. Why do our emotional states impact our ability to learn? The answer lies in the limbic system.

"The limbic system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. Emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories." 

In times of stress and anxiety it appears that the limbic system shuts down access to areas of higher processing and inhibits new connections from being made. This makes learning anything new, including languages very difficult and in some instances impossible.  Being aware of your emotional state while learning is very important for the learner and it's equally important for the instructor to watch for signs of stress or problems in their students in order to create an environment suited to learning and the needs of the student.

Our brains are fascinating and very powerful but like all other muscles in our bodies you must exercise it or risk losing it. Learning a new language is a fabulous exercise for the brain of any age and learning another language has been shown to stave off dementia in older adults. You must keep up with the language that you've learned or are in the process of learning on a regular basis. The neural connections you have made if left unused and unexercised will weaken over time and will eventually be lost entirely. The cells need to receive consistent stimulation over a particular pathway in order to preserve and reinforce the learning and even to preserve the cells themselves. What does that mean for the new language learner? Practice, practice and more practice! Look for new and creative ways to use the language you are learning you will strengthen the neural pathway, your overall brain health and be aware of your emotional states when learning, when you are calmer and more at peace your learning journey will be easier than it otherwise would be.

Please cite: Amanda Moritz-Saladino, "The 10 Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning"  Brainscape, May 2017

May 2017

The Bilingual Brain: Rewired

Science is beginning to show that the brains of bilingual people are wired differently than monolingual people; the differences are shown in the structures and in the neural networks of the brain. The differences facilitate primarily positive advantages for the bilingual, for instance, bilingual individuals are more likely to find it easier to learn another language than monolingual folks.

The "juggling" of two languages was once thought to be a disadvantage and was thought to negatively impact learning. This theory has been proven to be false. Judith F. Kroll, a Cognitive Scientist at Penn State, asserts that both languages are always at work in the bilingual brain. "Both languages are active at all times in bilinguals, meaning the individuals cannot easily turn off either language and the languages are in competition with one another. In turn this causes bilinguals to juggle the two languages, reshaping the network in the brain that supports each. "The consequences of bilingualism are not limited to language but reflect a reorganization of brain networks that hold implications for the ways in which bilinguals negotiate cognitive competition more generally," said Kroll. The brain of a bilingual person is working in both languages simultaneously and is in essence getting a better workout than the monolingual brain.

Read the full article here: Language juggling rewires bilingual brain

March 2017

Why Multi-linguals' Have the Advantage in the Global Economy

Although English is arguably the most prevalent language in the world today, it may come as a surprise to some people and professionals that there are over 7,000 spoken languages in the world. Just for a moment think about all the people, places, concepts and cultures you could understand if you knew the native language. Professionally, multilingual individuals have a greater advantage on many levels. This leads us to poses a very serious question - "How many languages do you know?"
In order to appreciate the concept of language, it is essential that we delve into its rather obvious intricacies. Language can be described as a form or system of communication that is particular to a region or country. What this implies is that systems, signs, conventions, and their associated meanings may vary from place to place.

Thinking Globally

Most established organizations have branches all over the world. It is also the dream of most business owners to expand and become global brands. This dream of expanding comes with the challenge of COMMUNICATION. You cannot effectively sell your products and services without communicating, and one of the ways to effectively communicate is by learning the language. Additionally for people who desire to be employed by a multinational corporation, fluency in other languages is may be the distinguishing factor in being selected for a new job or to receive a promotion.

Who Should Learn A New Language?

Learning a second language is applicable to people who are fresh out college graduates as well as seasoned executives. There is no doubt that knowing a second language helps you stand out amongst other prospective employees and colleagues. Those who speak two (bilingual) languages have access to opportunities that those without foreign language skills do not. An employer would rather hire an individual who is fluent in another language than to spend extra money on language instruction for a current employee. Managers will almost always save money by selecting someone with similar skills who can speak the new language.

Gaining the Trust of the Customer

Two other vital issues in business and in business environments are respect and trust. In today's "global economy", in order to make maximum impact, an individual and a business must understand how business is conducted overseas. Learning a second language, relevant to the location in question, equips you with the necessary knowledge that is needed to make an impact. It is a natural human instinct for customers to respect and trust individuals who speak their language over someone who does not. Earning the respect and trust of customers is critical in business and employers will actively seek out and hire individuals who are best able to advance the interests of the company.

In conclusion, fluency in a second language is not a futuristic concept, it has arrived and it's here to stay. It is not also restricted to a particular profession either; a second language comes in handy in government, finance, sales, tourism, technology, manufacturing, and professional sectors. The least a prospective employee or seasoned executive can do is to make him or herself more valuable. After all, valuable things have a higher market value and price tag. To buttress this fact, research from Rosetta Stone reveals that bilingual employees have an "average annual household income that is at least $10,000 higher than those who speak only English".

Increase your value today, learn a second language!

January 2017

Why Multi-linguals' Have the Advantage in the Global Economy

In the Zone: Your Brain and New Language Learning
As science continually evolves new discoveries are made, old theories are challenged and new sets of postulations are put forth and so goes the cycle. Our quest for knowledge is insatiable and that's a great thing because without it we'd be stuck in old patterns of learning. Developments and discoveries about our brain, its structures and new language learning is no exception.

Language is simply the use of sound(s) as a method of communication. Human speech is very complex and takes years of post-natal learning to be effective. It will come as no surprise that learning language actually begins with hearing. The auditory process is vital to learning language. Sound enters through the ears; the auditory nerves pick up the sound and transmit it to the auditory cortex where our brain goes to work decoding the sound and making sense of it.

There are specific areas of the brain, or zones, involved in language learning and processing. They are:

  • Broca: linked to speech production.
  • Werni >Middle temporal: linked to the ability to access word meaning
  • Inferior parietal: linked to the interpretation of sensory information
  • Angular gyrus: linked to complex language function

When a 'sound' signal is received, it is processed by the auditory cortex and further refined by the structures above allowing us to make sense of what we have heard. It sounds fairly straightforward and simplistic but in reality this process is incredibly complex and not entirely understood.

All of these brain structures are at play in learning a new language. It may seem that since we've already mastered our native language another shouldn't be a problem at all - after all the necessary structures are already in place and functioning. This unfortunately isn't the case. Learning a second language requires the learner to expend more brain power, or in other words, to use more of the brain's resources to decode a new language.

Imaging of the brain has shown that areas of the brain that are activated in native and non-native are different. The primary difference is in the superior temporal gyrus. This region is involved language learning and in the first or native language it is responsible for automated processing. This area is much more active when using your first language versus the non-native language. When learning a second language, your brain must be more resourceful to decode the new language and the brain area called into play is the inferior frontal gyrus allowing the new language learner to try to identify the words, to interpret what they are hearing. It is a more active, deliberate and conscious process versus an automatic one.

Over time, with much application and perseverance the new language will feel more natural and easier to call upon. We also must be aware that social interaction plays a big part of language acquisition, be it a native or non-native language, so by far one of the best ways to enhance your new language learning experience is to find a native speaker to converse and interact with on a regular basis. Your confidence and understanding of the nuances of the new language will develop much faster.

September 2016

The Adult Brain & Learning a New Language

There is some scientific evidence that success in new language learning may be genetically based. Studies have shown that white matter areas of the brain undergo changes when learners are immersed in intensive study. New connections are formed that structurally change our brain.

"Foreign language exposure increased the connectivity of the brain's language circuitry in enrolled learners compared with learners who were not enrolled in the language class."1

Admittedly, this study was conducted on young adults but it may also shed some light on why it is sometimes more difficult for us to learn a new language (among other things) at a later stage in life. More difficult, perhaps, impossible, certainly not!

It has been typically thought that the aging brain loses its' plasticity and isn't as readily able to form new connections and grow. But this isn't really the case. We can and do learn new things as we age and our brains do keep continuing to grow. In fact, "Plasticity can also be observed in the brains of people who speak more than one language. It appears that learning a second language is possible through functional changes in the brain: the left back part of the brain is larger in bilingual speakers than in the brains of those who just speak one language."2

It's particularly encouraging to learn that bilingualism can actually prevent or delay the onset of some of the functional age-related changes that can occur in the aging brain. They can even be reversed and lessened when the individual undertakes learning a new language at a later age. Liken it to exercise for the brain because that's what it is and it really is a use it or lose it phenomenon.

The key is to understand that adults learn differently. Because of this adults must be taught differently than a young person would be instructed, there is no one size fits all approach that will work for everyone. When the method of instruction is customized and adapted to account for the age of the individual then success will follow and it won't seem to be such an arduous undertaking.

What works best for adult learners? We must always account for the individual learner but the following are good tips when instructing adult learners.

  • Build the foundation in increments, use a step-by-step approach
  • Be patient: Learning a New Language is a real process that happens in increments
  • Utilize tools and visuals

The learner also brings his/her own unique learning style to the table so be sure to talk openly and honestly about how best to support each other ensuring success for all.

  1. University of Washington. "Success in second language learning linked to genetic and brain measures." ScienceDaily, 13 June 2016.
  2. Mario D. Garrett Ph.D, "Brain Plasticity in Older Adults". Psychology Today, 27 April 2013.

September 2015

How to Teach Old Dogs New Tricks: Language and the Aging Brain

We've all heard the expression, "you can't teach old dogs new tricks" but thankfully that just isn't true. Neuroscience has proven that learning a new language, at any age is beneficial not only because you can claim to be multi-lingual but because learning something new as you advance in years is actually very good for your brain. Consider this quote from a NY times article "How to Train the Aging Brain" by Barbara Strauch, published DEC. 29, 2009:

"The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding," says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary's College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively. "As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step."

This tells us that the older brain is not only capable of learning new things but that it is better equipped to receive, incorporate and use new information more readily than a younger brain. This is good news indeed! As always though, there is a catch, you've got to "use it or lose it". The brain is a muscle that must be challenged and stretched to continue to be sharp.

Prashanthi Vemuri, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota, has noted that "… (older) people who challenged their brains at least three times per week delayed the onset of cognitive decline by more than three years compared to those who did less." Cited from an article titled "Keeping the aging brain active may also keep it sharp" study by Kathryn Doyle

There are many ways to exercise your brain as you age. Reading, crossword puzzles, travel, mastering the computer are just a few things we can do that help our brains stay cognitively healthy and stimulated. Learning a new language though is one of the best mental activities that we can do to promote health in our aging brains and the benefit is nothing short of amazing.

Many recent studies are citing a correlation between the onset of dementia and bilingualism. Individuals who were raised bilingual experienced a later onset of dementia than monolingual people and this held true for those people who became bilingual later in life. A study by York University's Ellen Bialystok has shown that "Even if you don't learn a second language until after middle age, it can still help stave off dementia."

Learning a new language later in life in addition to keeping dementia at bay a little longer may also assist the elderly in memory recall in ordinary situations. Remembering people, places and things is easier when you have become bilingual post mid-life because to learn the new language you are actively engaging your memory muscle and once flexed it remains stronger as you age.

There are many benefits in actively learning as we age and even more when you decide to learn a new language. If you have embarked on the journey to learn a new language, good for you, stick with it - it may not be the easiest thing you have ever done but the payoff is unsurpassed. If you're considering learning a new language, go for it, you've got nothing to lose and much to gain.

In short, you're never too old to learn something new!

June 2015

A Case for Multilingualism: The Professional Advantage

Fluency in a language or multiple languages other than your native tongue has many professional and personal benefits for the individual. These benefits range from enhanced multi-cultural understanding to the development of a sharper mind. However, many people are oblivious of the benefits of learning a new language which gives those who are fluent in other languages a huge competitive advantage. If you ask the average Canadian citizen if they can speak or understand any other language other than English, the answer is typically "No". There are many professional advantages to be gained by becoming fluent in other languages. Below you will find a few reasons that strengthen the case for the mastery of multiple languages.

  • Improved Employment Opportunities
    The ability to speak multiple languages is a much valued skill especially in the present globalized market. Businesses have become a melting pot of different cultures. Gone are the days when business was conducted and composed of homogeneous cultural and language groups. And, as we all know, good communication is the key to success, which makes the ability to efficiently and effectively communicate with more groups an obvious professional advantage. Multinational corporations have expanded their sphere of business into multiple countries and are always in need of employees who can work easily with teams from other countries. Thus, multi-lingual employees are in high demand.

    Corporate business is not the only sector which has high demand of multilingual employees. Government agencies, the travel industry, marketing sector, entertainment and publishing sector, public relations and entertainment are some other fields which give a handsome salary package to the employees fluent in more than one language.

  • Multilingual Pre-requisite
    There are many jobs that require multilingual employees and with increasing frequency the ability to communicate in other languages is a pre-requisite for the job. For example, leading advertising firms often have special job opportunities for those with fluency in more than one language. Some companies have dedicated agencies that cater to a specific language group. Also, there are a multitude of jobs in the government sector for which a command over any other language along with English is a necessary pre-requisite. These jobs may include foreign embassy jobs or a job within governmental departments such as the Council of Foreign Relations. A person with the ability to converse in multiple languages has the ability to earn a handsome salary as an interpreter or translator. The tourism and travel industries also have high paying jobs that are reserved for multi-linguals only.

  • Indirect Advantages
    There are other factors which indirectly affect your professional career and are favourably influenced by the ability to speak multiple languages. For instance, admission into college or university can be positively influenced by the ability to speak multiple languages giving the applicant a tremendous advantage over English-only speaking peers. Currently, most colleges and universities admission policies require that applicants have, at minimum, two years of high school foreign language instruction and the applicant who has obtained more than the minimum requirement has a much higher chance of acceptance. Academic institutions for higher learning consider the knowledge of a secondary or foreign language a must-have skill for every educated person. Moreover, there are some majors in arts, humanities, natural sciences and behavioral and social studies in which study of one or more foreign language is necessary to ensure success in the field.

Obtaining fluency in multiple languages pays off in many ways, not the least of which is financial. A multi-lingual individual gains a competitive advantage over uni-lingual peers and they have access to employment opportunities that the vast majority of people do not qualify for.

March 2015

Tips For Learning A New Language

'Learning a new language' is one of the most popular and common new-year's resolutions. After watching an amazing foreign movie in subtitles, reading an English translation of a great foreign language novel (for me it was One Hundred Years of Solitude) and/or suffering from language problems on our travel, we often make resolutions to learn that particular language. But, after some days or after few futile efforts all of those resolutions are thrown out of the window, because learning a new language is very difficult. However, there are some tips which can make learning a new language a bit less difficult and intimidating. Here, are those tips.

  1. Conversation and practice
    The reason for placing this tip on top of the list is that I don't want to fool you in believing that there exists a way other than a great deal of practice in developing a mastery in a new language. If there is a tip that will surely lead you to definite success, then it is hours and hours of practice. Try to converse as much as possible in the language. For best results, select those who have better control over language for conversing. Initially, it might be awkward and embarrassing to do, but there is no other way that could help in learning quickly.
  2. Focus on quality
    It is the quality of effort you put in your practice rather than number of hours you spend on practice that will assist you in learning a new language. I don't mean to say that long hours of practice won't be beneficial in learning process. But, you need to put intensity and quality in those sessions. To add intensity to the session, make them bigger. The four hour sessions will be more effective than the one hour sessions.
  3. Carry a pocket dictionary
    Make a habit of carrying a pocket dictionary. And, nowadays you don't have to carry a paperback dictionary, you can install an app in your smartphone. Try to find a synonym of a spoken English word in the language you are learning. Every time you hear an interesting word, just open the app and learn its equivalent in another language. This habit will help you in two ways. First, you will find it easier to remember new words because of association. Also, this will make the whole process a lot more fun.
  4. Start with common words
    Some words are more widely used in conversations. So, before going for whole vocabulary learn those common words. By learning the common words, you can start practicing conversation earlier. This will give you a sense of achievement and will motivate you to work harder. Also, you will get to practice what matters most - the conversations.
  5. Mental practice
    Another important habit that can help you succeed is to think in that new language. We often have monologues in our native language running in our mind. Challenge yourself to have those monologues in the new language. Try to initiate fake conversations in your mind, just pick a random topic and start rambling on it.

Spring 2015

Lunch & Learn Bootcamp Program - 12 weeks

French - English - Spanish - Portuguese - Mandarin

  1. Objective: To provide an interactive forum to practice on a regular basis and improve your language skills and capability.
  2. Participants: This program is for current and prospective participants. We invite participants from all levels from New Beginner to Advanced with a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 8 participants per group and per level.
  3. Program Outline: A one hour session, will be moderated by Language Advantage. Participants will have an opportunity to learn and improve their language Skills with colleagues and/or clients. By using vocabulary and grammar games, conducting mini-improvisation, presenting information on various topics, our program will help increase the level of confidence for participants and at the same time have fun!