Reasoning and decision-making less biased, more analytical in foreign language

The potential benefits of language learning have been all over the news: Second language learning fosters cognitive development. It increases brain functions. It can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It improves first language knowledge and performance.

A new study shows that “Reasoning is Sharper in a Foreign Language”: We tend to be more risk-averse in our first language when presented with a choice between potential loss and potential gain – for example when gambling – even if the eventual outcome is the same. This cognitive bias disappears when the same decision is put to us in a foreign language: “When people use a foreign language, their decisions tend to be less biased, more analytic, more systematic, because the foreign language provides psychological distance”, according to Boaz Keysar, lead author of the study which was first published in Psychological Science in April 2012. The authors propose that “these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does.”

To learn more, go here.

Meet the Aston Professor: Gertrud Reershemius, Prof of Linguistics

In the talk series ‘Meet the Professor’ sessions at Aston University, some of our acclaimed academics talk about their career path, how and why they got to where they are now.

The series continues this coming Friday with Gertrud Reershemius, Professor of Linguistics and Co-Director of CLERA.

Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) launched this week

In the face of relentless government reform of higher education in England, the newly-founded CDBU unites academics from numerous English universities who share a ‘distaste for treating a university education as a mere commodity, an idea that appears to be the heart of the government’s reforms’* and hope to refocus the debate.

This is their Manifesto for reform**:

The Council for the Defence of British Universities is independent of any political party, for although we oppose many of the present government’s proposals, the assumptions to which we object were equally evident under its predecessor.

Our core principle is that the Council for the Defence of British Universities exists to advance university education for the public benefit. This is underpinned by nine supporting aims:

• To defend and enhance the character of British universities as places where students can develop their capacities to the full, where research and scholarship are pursued at the highest level, and where intellectual activity can be freely conducted without regard to its immediate economic benefit

• To urge that university education, both undergraduate and postgraduate, be accessible to all students who can benefit from it

• To maintain the principle that teaching and research are indispensable activities for a university, and that one is not pursued at the expense of the other

• To ensure that universities, while responding to the needs of students and society in general, should retain ultimate control of the content of the courses taught and the methods of instruction employed. As well as often providing vocational training, university education should equip graduates with the mental skills and intellectual flexibility necessary to meet the demands of a rapidly changing economy. It should develop the powers of the mind, enlarge knowledge and understanding, and enable graduates to lead fuller and more rewarding lives

• To emphasise that, as well as often having vital social and economic applications and being subject to accountability, academic research seeks to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the physical world, of human nature and of all forms of human activity

• To ensure that methods employed to assess the quality of university research do not encourage premature or unnecessary publication or inhibit the production of major works that require a long period of gestation

• To safeguard the freedom of academics to teach and to pursue research and enquiry in the directions appropriate to the needs of their subject

• To maintain the principle of institutional autonomy, to encourage academic self-government and to ensure that the function of managerial and administrative staff is to facilitate teaching and research

• To ensure that British universities continue to transmit and reinterpret the world’s cultural and intellectual inheritance, to encourage global exchange and to engage in the independent thought and criticism necessary for the flourishing of any democratic society.

For more information about the CDBU, including details on joining, please visit

*Peter Scott: Academics have started to argue back on higher education reforms, The Guardian, 12 November 2012

**Times Higher Education, Fidei defensores, 8 November 2012

BrainFund: Crowd-funding your college education

The crowd-funding platform Kickstarter has been used to fund creative projects such as film productions or music projects. In a new project called BrainFund, crowd-funding is used ‘to change the way people think about college finance’.

BrainFund was created by Casey Hinson, a University of Houston finance grad and current MBA student of University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, to provide a platform for students who are looking to finance their studies without accumulating huge amounts of debt. The students create an account and profile page, providing informatioin about their school, major, minor, GPA, and the amount of money requested for a semester’s needs. Prospective donors – family, relatives, friends, but also perfect strangers – can browse these profiles and donate a micro-scholarship of anywhere between $10 and $2,000 to any students they choose.

Hinson and his partners hope to reach $1 billion in funding for students and to attract 10% of the nation’s current 20 million college students over the next five years as users.

To read more about this project, read the article ‘College by the Crowd: The New Future of School Funding?’ or go directly to the BrainFund website.

Infographic: Popular Educational Twitter Hashtags

Twitter is increasingly becoming a valuable tool for educators, both as a forum for networking and information exchange and as a new medium to use in the classroom. The following infographic gives an overview of the most popular hashtags related to education in the US:

 Popular Educational Twitter Hashtags
Compiled By:

Infographic: Teachers and social media

Some teachers embrace technology and social media, others are more reluctant to engage. The following infographic from Online Colleges may serve as a useful guide.

Surprising Info

  • Most teachers don’t use Twitter. They opt for Facebook and YouTube by a large amount
  • LinkedIn is preferred over both wikis and Twitter
  • Just about every social network can play a pivotal role in education, so it’s time to start learning about all of them!

(List taken from this website, infographic originally posted at

Infographic: Advantages of being bilingual

Looking for a visual aid to highlight some of the advantages of speaking more than one language? This infographic might do the trick:

Via: Voxy Blog

Click here for some ideas on how to use this in class.

Fascinating new ethnography of British-Pakistani transnationals in London

Yet more fascinating reading to be found on the sociolinguistics research site ‘Language-on-the-Move’:

In ‘Home is where I’m alienated’, Ingrid Piller reports on a new ethnographic study (Qureshi 2012) of British-Pakistani transnationals in London which finds that, contrary to the popular image of the ‘modern transnational’, many of these Pakistani men who came to Britain during the post-war manufacturing boom are now left aged, unemployed and in ill health, unable to return to Pakistan and dependent on an often unsympathetic system: ‘the legal-medical apparatus through which they continually have to prove their disability and ill-health in order to be entitled to benefits while simultaneously finding that the same system has been slow to attend to their medical needs and has often exacerbated their condition through long waiting times or malpractice.’

QURESHI, KAVERI (2012). Pakistani labour migration and masculinity: industrial working life, the body and transnationalism Global networks DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2012.00362.x