Episode 77 – Managing the presence of multiple languages in a single mind with Dr. Giuli Dussias

Episode 77

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Dr. Giuli Dussias, a Professor and the Head of the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at Penn State University.  Dr. Giuli Dussias describes to us how the brain is capable of managing multiple languages and dispels the misconception that adding a second or third language can complicate our language system.

Episode #77 Quick Guide

Dr. Giuli Dussias discusses with us:

  • Her multilingual upbringing in Venezuela where she was exposed to Italian in the home as well as her grandmother’s Italian’s dialect;
  • Her current family dynamic with her trilingual children and her parents living in Italy;
  • How we can measure bilingualism;
  • The misconceptions that in order to be bilingual you must speak both languages at the same level;
  • The many forms in which bilingualism can be manifested in an individual;
  • How the brain manages the presence of two or more languages in one mind;
  • How bilingual individuals are mental jugglers;
  • How both languages are present when a bilingual individual is speaking just one of the languages;
  • How the language not in use influences bilingual performance at all levels including vocabulary, grammar and phonology;
  • The research is showing that bilinguals are good at tuning out irrelevant information because of their experience juggling two languages;
  • The stroop test including an experience I had with my husband with the test;
  • That bilingualism is good for you and how bilingual speakers can outperform monolinguals in certain tasks;
  • How fluent bilinguals rarely make the wrong word choice indicating that there is an advanced language selection mechanism present;
  • How normally developing children will go through the same milestones whether they are bilingual or monolingual;
  • A child’s language development depends on a large amount of exposure and input of a given language;
  • How she personally created exposure and a need to use Italian with her own children;
  • How bilingual children with natural development compare to their monolingual peers;
  • The definition of code switching as the alternation between two languages during discourse including examples of how children may use it in their everyday interactions;
  • How the most important things for language development are exposure and need;
  • A reminder that the benefits of bilingualism lead to enhanced cognitive skills that can deter the signs of aging.

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