Never Too Late


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As anyone who has done it knows, going back to school is a major undertaking. For younger and older adults alike, starting or returning to school presents different challenges than those encountered by teens fresh out of high school and heading straight to college. Countless Americans take on this task while working, raising kids, caring for parents, volunteering, serving in the military—and in some cases all of the above. How can I afford the time and money required to get a college degree? How do I compare schools? Rebecca Klein-Collins is the associate vice president of research at the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, a group that aims to enhance learning opportunities for adults around the world, and the author of Never Too Late The New Press is a nonprofit public-interest book publisher.

Your gift will support The New Press in continuing to leverage books for social change. Please make a tax-deductible donation today! Skip to main content. The New Press. Enter your keywords. You are here Home. Available: December We conclude that the effects of bilingualism extend into the auditory domain and are not confined to childhood bilinguals, although their scope might be slightly different in early and late bilinguals.

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For many decades, the study of bilingualism focused on the linguistic differences between monolingual and bilingual children and adults, such as vocabulary size, lexical access, and morphosyntactic development see De Houwer, , for a review. However, from the s onward the idea emerged that the experience of bilingualism might also influence cognitive functions other than language.

Studies comparing mono- and bilingual children suggested a bilingual advantage in non-verbal problem-solving tasks such as the dimensional change card sort task, cardinal quantity tasks, and, with particular relevance to the present study, in the control of attention Frye et al.

Recent studies demonstrate that these differences persist well-beyond childhood Bialystok et al. These cognitive advantages of bilingualism in older adults can be of considerable practical relevance, leading to a slower cognitive aging and a later onset of dementia Bialystok et al. Indeed, studies from different countries, with radically different populations, cultures, and languages arrived at a remarkably similar estimate of a 4—5 years delay in the onset of dementia in bilingual patients when compared to monolinguals Alladi et al.

Thus, bilingualism is starting to play an increasingly important role in the current debates about cognitive reserve and the factors influencing cognitive aging and dementia Bak and Alladi, Different explanations have been put forward to account for these apparent cognitive differences between bilinguals and monolinguals.

Kroll and De Groot postulate that the bilingual advantage results from a greater cognitive flexibility due to the need to select appropriate language options from one common conceptual store, which contains a large number of mappings of words and concepts. In contrast, Green argues that bilinguals have better inhibitory control because, in order to prevent ongoing interference, they must inhibit the language not in use. Indeed, a study by Treccani et al.

Some researchers have also questioned the generalizability of results showing a bilingual advantage, based on the heterogeneity of the bilingual population, the instability of these results and a number of failed attempts to replicate them Paap and Greenberg, ; see Kroll and Bialystok, as response. While this debate is still open, the field is engaged in finding exactly how specific factors affecting the bilingual experience relate to specific components of executive control Paap, The present study is a contribution to this wider aim.

One of the factors that might influence the nature of cognitive processing in bilinguals is the age of acquisition of the second language. Early studies of cognition in bilinguals focused on simultaneous or early successive bilinguals who acquired both languages in their first years of life and it is in this group that bilingual cognitive advantages have been best documented Bialystok, However, recent studies suggest that both early and late bilingualism might have significant, yet different influence on frontal-executive functions, with early bilinguals being better at switching, late at inhibiting Tao et al.

Indeed, early and late bilingualism could be associated with different patterns of brain development Klein et al. Given that the acquisition of a second language in adulthood is arguably becoming more common than the ideal case of early simultaneous bilingualism, it is important to determine whether the effects of bilingualism—advantageous or disadvantageous—extend to this population. The identification of bilingualism as a potential factor delaying dementia Bak and Alladi, brings a new set of challenges to the researchers working in this field. In order to explore the impact of bilingualism on healthy and on pathological aging, we need large studies, including healthy elderly population as well as patients suffering from different brain diseases.

These types of participants require brief, easily applicable tests, ideally those already in use in clinical populations. In contrast, the majority of studies exploring cognitive differences between monolinguals and bilinguals so far have been using complex experimental paradigms applied in laboratory settings. Such procedures cannot be easily used in large cohorts of elderly participants, let alone in patients with dementia, stroke, head injury or other disorders affecting nervous system.

What is needed, therefore, is a brief clinical instrument sensitive to potential cognitive differences between mono- and bilinguals. Firstly, it is a well-established and widely used clinical test, with large sets of normative data collected in healthy elderly Western Robertson et al.

Secondly, it has been successfully applied in a wide range of neurological diseases, including stroke, head injury, dementia, and other neurodegenerative conditions Robertson et al. This means that the tasks are clear enough to be understood by those patient groups but, at the same time, sensitive enough to detect impairments. Thirdly, the TEA consists of different subtests, assessing different components of the attentional system: sustained attention, selective attention, and attentional switching Robertson et al.

It allows, therefore, a separate assessment of different forms of attention. The last aspect seemed to us to be of special interest in the context of bilingualism. In comparison with the wealth of studies examining the visual domain, much less is known about possible differences in auditory processing between mono- and bilinguals, despite the importance of the auditory domain in language acquisition and use. Moreover, the results of auditory studies of bilinguals and monolinguals have so far produced conflicting results.

Bialystok and DePape did not find an advantage of bilinguals over monolinguals on an auditory Stroop task, while other authors reported a better performance in bilinguals on dichotic listening Hamalainen and Hugdahl, and sound encoding Krizman et al. It is conceivable, therefore, that the linguistic nature of the stimuli provides an advantage for bilinguals. Hence, in order to establish whether the cognitive effects of bilingualism extend into the auditory domain, it is necessary to use tasks that minimize verbal elements as much as possible.

Based on these considerations, we have selected for our study five TEA subtests measuring different aspects of attention. Initially Experiment 1 , we selected the so-called Elevator Tasks 1—3, measuring in the auditory domain sustained attention Elevator Task 1 , selective attention Elevator Task 2 , and attentional switching Elevator Task 3.

Extending the results from the first experiment, we have added in Experiment 2 two further subtests Telephone Search and Telephone Search while counting. These tasks assess visual search, an aspect of attention which, although demanding, does not require processing of conflicting information e.

Accordingly, we did not expect it to be influenced by bilingualism.


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These subtests can help, therefore, to determine whether possible differences between mono- and bilingual groups are due to general, differences in cognitive performance, or to specific aspects of attention. In Experiment 1, we examined early childhood bilinguals ECB those who acquired both languages before the age of 4 and late childhood bilinguals LCB who acquired the second language between the ages of 4 and 15 years.

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In Experiment 2, we extended the study to early adulthood bilinguals EAB whose second language acquisition took place between the ages of 15 and All 60 subjects were students at the University of Edinburgh, who understood and spoke English fluently. There were no significant differences in age or gender distribution between the groups—age: ML: All 38 subjects were also students at the University of Edinburgh with fluent command of English. None of them had participated in the Experiment 1. Based on the results of the same Language Ability Questionnaire as in Experiment 1, the group was split into 19 monolinguals ML and 19 EAB, who acquired their second language between the ages of 15 and 19 years.

Both experiments consisted of subtests for the TEA, a standardized test battery to assess attentional functions Robertson et al. The test was conducted in a quiet laboratory space, with instructions and tones presented from a tape using headphones. Subjects are asked to count simple tones of the same pitch and duration presented at irregular intervals; used as a measure of sustained attention. Subjects hear low and high tones and count the number of low tones while ignoring the high ones; used as a measure of selective attention. Subjects hear a sequence of three different tones: a middle-pitched, high, and low tone, they are asked to count the middle-pitched tones, upwards if preceded by a high, downwards if preceded by a low tone; used as a measure of attentional switching.

Never Too Late

Subjects are given a telephone book directory page and a cue-book illustrating the target symbols. The task consists of circling all entries with a given combination of symbols. Same instructions as above, with the additional difficulty that the subjects had to conduct the task while at the same time counting auditorily presented tones simple tones of the same pitch, as in the Elevator Task 1.

No significant difference was observed on Elevator Task 1. Difference between the monolingual and childhood bilingual groups on TEA sub-tests Experiment 1.

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Experiment 1—Comparison of the number of correct answers in Monolinguals vs. Childhood bilinguals.

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There were no significant differences between the groups in Elevator Task 1. Early and vs. Late childhood bilinguals. Differences between the monolingual, the early, and the late childhood bilingual groups on TEA sub-tests Experiment 1. No significant differences were found on Elevator Task 1.

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Stromwell collapses, sobbing "Michael A voice answers, "I'm here, Arnie". The old priest steps into the light, Father Michael Stromwell. He wasn't killed, but lost a leg, something for which Arnold never forgave himself. Out of guilt, he angrily rejects Michael's offer of help, only to be reminded of the current dismal state of his life: his family is broken, his son is gravely ill, his empire is crumbling, and his enemies are closing in. Michael appeals to Stromwell, asking him to do the right thing, for his family and for himself.

Stromwell hugs his brother, sobbing. Thorne suddenly appears with a gun, ready to kill them both, but Batman arrives just in time to subdue him. The police arrive on the scene and Stromwell prepares to give them a statement as Batman slips away into the night. Michael : Arnold? That's one soul I wish I could give up on.

Arnold : I don't need your help! Michael: Is that a fact? An empire crumbling? A marriage shattered? A son lost? Sure, you're doing fine. Arnold: Stay away, Michael! The last time you tried to help me, you lost your leg! Michael: Oh, I get by Arnold: You knew I was no good, Mike. Why did you save me? Michael: Arnie, what else could I do?

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