This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Nuts and Bolts: speaking with forked tongue.

The trouble with research is that sometimes it tells you stuff you don't want to know.

A joint study by Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities has been looking at bilingual people to find out how good they are at judging the accuracy of their own guesses.

I don't know exactly who decided to do this study, or, indeed, why, but thirty one bilingual and thirty one monolingual people were shown circles containing dots, and these people had to estimate which circle had the most dots in it, and also to say how likely they thought their answer was to be right.

Now, being bilingual has several advantages: it means you have to do a lot less sign-languages in shops; it prevents you doing things like confusing a piscine*, say, with a pissoir**; it seems to stave off dementia for a few years; and the general belief is that bilinguists are particularly empathetic and tolerant.

But bilinguists aren't as good at estimating how good their answers are when it comes to dots in circles. In fact, they are ten per cent worse.

Why this should be the case, no one knows, but good for Dr Roberto Filippi, director of the Multilanguage & Cognition Lab at Anglia Ruskin University for making these findings public.

Though, as an academic at an English university with a name like that, the chances are he himself is bilingual. And so...

...but no. I'm sure we can rely on Dr Filippi's judgement entirely.

Word To Use Today: bilingual. Lingua is the Latin for tongue (and it gives us the word linguine, too).

*French: swimming pool.

**French: building containing a urinal.

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