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Spotlight on Languages

Born Again in a Second Language

A reflection from Simone Weil in her "Letter to a Priest", that a change in religion can be as dangerous a thing as a change of language for a writer, leads the author to reflect on additional insights on writing in a second language, from Samuel Beckett, an Irishman writing in French, and from the Russian writer Joseph Brodsky writing in English. It seems that in the process of adopting a second language as a means of expression, you don’t really change languages; the language changes you. Also, the author notes that writing literature in another language has a distinctly performative dimension: as you do it something happens to you, the language acts upon you. The book you are writing ends up writing you in turn.

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Why Bilinguals are Smarter

In contemplating the benefits of language study, many of us consider the practical aspects of fluency in a second language. These typically include the ability to communicate with people that we would otherwise not be able to approach for conversation or insight.  Another consideration involves understanding language as a cultural construct, and hence knowledge of a second language leads to a deeper appreciation of its culture.  A recent article in the New York Times reveals another advantage to achieving fluency in a second language, as it reviews research showing that bilingualism leads to significantly enhanced cognitive abilities.  Interestingly, the article points out that these benefits also accrue to those who learn a second language later in life.

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