Episode 69: The adaptability of the multilingual brain with Dr. Arturo Hernandez

Episode 69


On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Dr. Arturo Hernandez.  Dr. Hernandez is the Director of Developmental Psychology and the Neural Bases of Bilingualism Laboratory Director at the University of Houston. He discusses the potential bilingual advantage that speaking more than one language can provide.  We also discuss how the multilingual brain can adapt for language acquisition.

For the past fifteen years, Dr. Hernandez has been investigating the nature of language processing using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to inform his work.  The focus of his work has been on word level processing with bilingual speakers. Dr. Hernandez received his Ph.D. from the University of San Diego, California.  He is a father of multilingual children and has worked hard as an adult to learn a fourth language!

Episode #69 Quick Guide

On this episode, Dr. Hernandez discusses with us:

  • His language journey including the languages he speaks: English, Spanish, Portuguese and German;
  • What led him to his professional and academic work around languages;
  • How languages are managed in his home with his children;
  • How research is showing that before birth we may have a bias towards language based on what children have been exposed to prenatally;
  • Some of the research his doctoral advisor Elizabeth Bates conducted;
  • How children do not respect the same grammar and meaning boundaries around languages that adults do which explains some of the code switching parents see their kids use;
  • How infants confuse across their senses much more often than older children do;
  • How sensitive the brain can be towards language learning yet how easily it can adapt to gain different levels of fluency;
  • How the differences between a simultaneous vs a sequential bilingual depends on the individual and when they were exposed to their second language;
  • What his research indicates on whether or not there is a bilingual advantage;
  • How speaking more than one language may enhance the ability to learn new vocabulary in another language;
  • His advice including to: 1) have patience, 2) think about the little things that you can do every day to expose your children to the target language and 3) convey to your children that improving just a little bit every day adds up over time.



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