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

TELEPHONE
647-343-5368
Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm M-F


OFFICE
55 Bloor Street West
Manulife, PO Box 19588
Toronto ON, Canada M4W 3T9


GENERAL EMAIL

info@language-advantage.com

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

Newsletter / Blog

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." 
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_system

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!