Trilingual by Six

25th May 2023

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Month

 Trilingual by Six: The Sane Way to Raise Intelligent, Talented Children , by Lennis Dippel MD. As the old joke goes:

“What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

“A bilingual.

“So what do you call a person who speaks one language?

“An American.” 

If you have young children or grandchildren, Dr. Dippel’s thought-provoking book provides a fountain of ideas about how to help your child grow up multilingual (that is, not like the typical US-born American!) in the easiest fashion possible—by learning new languages during their earliest years. Learning a language at this early time allows toddlers’ tiny basal ganglia procedural systems—which are then at their strongest—to soak up the rhythms and patterns in the easiest possible way. That is, by just listening and talking!  Incidentally, we have met many professors and business executives who have started out as au pairs. So if you use one of the approaches outlined in Dr. Dippel’s book and hire an au pair, (Dr. Dippel also has many other ideas) you may be providing a step forward in international acumen for both your child and the blossoming career of your au pair.

Raising a Multi-Lingual (beyond Bilingual) Child

Barb’s granddaughter, who is now five months old, is growing up being exposed to four different languages: English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin.  (She just LOVES the happy attention, no matter what the language! Could we add one more language?) If you might have any experience raising a multi-lingual (beyond bilingual) child, and you have suggestions or interesting comments to share, please  comment in the discussion forum here !  (If the link doesn’t take you directly there, just log in to Coursera/Learning How to Learn and go to the general discussion forum.)

Language Learning – Comments on Outdated Approaches

We were asked to comment on  this video  about language learning by prominent linguist Stephen Krashen, because the approaches that Krashen recommends are still prominent in language learning.  What Krashen says is accurate in many ways, (for example, the importance of comprehensible input and a low anxiety environment). But Krashen clearly knows virtually nothing of neuroscience—and to give him credit, at the time Krashen made the video, neuroscience had nothing like the insight it provides today.  

For example, Krashen implies that understanding is all you need to learn a language. That’s perhaps appropriate to say for kids, but not adults (note that all his examples involved children). 

The reality is, as we mentioned above in relation to Dr. Dippel’s book, the habitual “rote” procedural system in humans—so important in language acquisition—changes between infancy and adulthood. Neuroscientific evidence is increasingly revealing that adults have weaker procedural systems, so drill for adults can help facilitate the development of the procedural, intuitive sets of neural links that are so important for adults as well as children.  This fading procedural learning system appears to be related to why infants and toddlers are able to pick up languages with ease—where they cannot do it so easily at age 10, and not nearly as easily at age 20. A fascinating recent book related to the topic that we are in the process of reading, (review to come), is The Cognitive Unconscious: The First Half Century, edited by Arthur Reber and Rhianon Allen.

Do you have colleagues who get lost in the details and just can’t seem to see the big picture?

At last there is intriguing research, published in Nature, that gives a sense of why some people find it so difficult to generalize and transfer ideas: “ Uncertainty aversion predicts the neural expansion of semantic representations .”  The sprightly popular article we link to here, by researcher Marc-Lluís Vives,

gives a sense of why some people can easily see differences, but struggle when it comes to commonalities.  Notice the enlightening imagery of tight versus loose neural connections!

Could this be related to the phenomenon of universities that preferentially select doctoral students who are great at seeing the individual trees but struggle to see the forest?  That is, they do well when focusing on the limited scope of their doctoral dissertations, but struggle to see the greater context of their work. (Certainly gifted social scientists, when put to the test of making predictions involving multiple broad contexts can be  no better  than amateurs.) Or is it related to Kruglanski’s  theories  of the need for cognitive closure and  closed-mindedness ?

Don’t miss Barb on June 5th in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Reliance College “Jefferson” Dinner 

A few last seats have been opened for Barb’s presentation at the Reliance College “Jefferson” Dinner:  “The Road to Education is Paved with Good Intentions…”  Register here  today.  

Anna Stokke’s Brilliant Podcast Interviews on Teaching Math

In  this podcast episode  with experienced teachers Barry Garelick and JR Wilson, authors of  Traditional Math: an effective strategy that teachers feel guilty using , Anna, Barry, and JR share strategies and practical advice that they have used in their own classrooms with great success. This includes ideas about how to get students excited about math, how to effectively use the “I do, we do, you do” method of teaching and the role of understanding in math.  They also discuss critical math topics that teachers should focus on, tips for teaching word problems, how to keep advanced students challenged, and how to help struggling students.  (Don’t miss Barry’s insightful article “ Effective Math Instruction: Hiding In Plain Sight .”)

And in  this episode , Barb and Anna  discuss learning techniques such as chunking and deliberate practice.  They explore why being a slower learner may not necessarily be a drawback and consider whether it’s possible to catch up on math skills later in life.  

The Biggest Project in Modern Mathematics

 This extraordinary  video  by Rutgers University mathematician Alex Kontorovich is the most beautiful, insightful video on math we’ve ever seen.


Here is  an intriguing article  about MathGPT, an artificial intelligence-based program, featured at the ASU+GSV Summit, that is setting a pathway toward revolutionizing the way we learn math.  Of course, getting the patterns of math into our brain—which allows us to gain an intuitive feel for the numbers—is key, and this can only happen through plenty of practice.  But MathGPT could potentially help provide for targeted practice coupled with answers to student questions that could truly make a paradigm shift for students in their ability to learn math. 

Math app for Kids

Check out this interesting app,  Levebee , created to help ALL children learn math, including those with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, visual impairment, and other special needs. The creators have over 30 years experience in special education, where many worthwhile approaches to teaching math to ALL students is taking place.) All instructions in the app can be shown and played in two languages simultaneously. This allows a teacher who speaks one language to work with a student who speaks a different language.

That’s all for now. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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