The Loh Down On Science

The way images from home affect us when we're abroad will surprise you!

There’s no place like home . . . for forgetting half of everything you’ve learned?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

It may be true for speaking a foreign language.

Meet Shu Zhang from Columbia University.  She tested the English fluency of Chinese university students:  First talk about a campus experience, then name the pictured object. 

And?  They spoke like pros when speaking to a caucasian face.  Or naming Mickey Mouse.  But speaking to a Chinese face?  Or naming the Great Wall of China?  They got tongue-tied!

Zhang's thought?  Cues from home take bilingual brains back to some default mental state.  Once there, foreign words are harder to find. 

Instead, students began using literal Chinese translations of English terms.  Like “sugar with stick” instead of lollipop.  They were speaking English.  But thinking in Chinese.

It seems the mental blocks to fluency are deep.

But when Disneylands are in every country? We'll all be speaking Mickey! Hola, Mickey!  Nee how man.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Win a thousand dollars for your favorite public school in our November contest! Details at lohdownonscience.org.


blog comments powered by Disqus