Understanding the bilingual mind

Psychology Today magazine (yes I read it) has a great article on the bilingual brain and how we process language and information. The new issue, which should be hitting stands right now, interviews 4 bilingual brilliant minds (puros nerds), some of them mastering more than 2 languages. Pero les faltó el Spanglish speaker. (Que onda con el Spanglish representation pues!)

Heres an excerpt of the article. “A Sharper Mind, The Bilingual Advantage” on the cover. You can eventually find it in full at their website http://www.psychologytoday.com when they update for the month, or get the mag at your local newstand for $4.99. This is the issue cover:

Weird cover of Psychology Today, but the article "A Sharper Mind" is quite interesting.

Double Talk

By Carlin Flora

Psychology Today

September/October 2010 issue

Some are children of enterprising immigrants or embattled refugees. Others live along borders or are part of a minority that keeps its heritage while blending into the mainstream. Still others have spend years memorizing vocabulary lists and parsing sentences. All told, half of the world’s population conducts life in multiple languages.

Bilingualism doesn’t just apply to the small percentage of people who are perfectly fluent in two tongues. Bilinguals might speak beautifully in one language without being able to read or write it. And they may have acquired their second tongue as a child, a teen, or an adult.

People who are bilingual are often asked which language they think in, but when people are walking down the street, riding a bus, or jogging in the woods, their thoughts may not be in a particular language, points out Francois Grosjean, author of the research based Bilingual Life and Reality. “Thought can be visual-spatial and nonlinguistic. It is only when planning to speak that individual languages actually intervene,” Grosjean says.

While they do repress words in one tongue in order to speak another, bilinguals don’t completely lose access to the first. For example, bilingual subjects reading sentences with cognates- example would be “bleu” in French and “blue” in English- take less time to process them than other words, hinting at how they are always dipping into their total language knowledge. And they often intermingle their languages (Spanglish, Chinglish), not out of laziness or lack of ability, but in a natural quest for optimal self expression and understanding.**

(** Well if Psych Today says so, then it must be true! My mind is complex, not lazy y a veces le pono y le quito palabras to express myself better. But only in the spirit of peace, love and understanding.)

Nuevos Amigos

It’s funny how sometimes great things happen when you least plan for them. Last Thursday my friend Karla B. and I went to the Improv in Hollywood for a Tonight Show showcase where Bill Santiago and other comedians were performing.

The show lasted about 90 minutes and there were some great laughs. Yo digo que Bill fue el mejor de todos.  After the show ended, we thought we were calling it a night…until somehow, people were introduced, plans were made, location was set and transportation was underway to Barney’s Beanery.

We had a blast! Dinner, drinks, laughs and at the end of the night, new friends. Who knew?

Karla, Bill, Dan, Danny and José…thanks for a lovely time. I’m still laughing!

At Barney's Beanery, what a great night!


Este Jueves Vamos al Improv Comedy Lab!

Dear LA Amigos and readers, want to catch a free comedy show on Thursday at The Melrose Improv Comedy Lab?

Pues resulta que va a haber un “Tonight Show Showcase” del show del Conan O’Brian and our friend Bill Santiago (see post below) is going to be there. Let’s go! Here’s the info:

The Tonight Show Showcase: This Thursday, November 19, 8:30 PM @ the Melrose Improv Comedy Lab.  Hosted by Jimmy Pardo with Rob Delaney, Erin Foley, Chris D’Elia, Christina Paszitsky,  Freddy Lockhart,  Melinda Hill, Dov Davidoff, Julius Sharpe, Dwayne Perkins, & Bill Santiago.

Melrose Improv Comedy Lab

Street or valet parking.  Entrance is in the parking lot just east of the main entrance.
Vamos a echarle porras al Bill! See you there!

Improv Comedy Lab on Melrose. Photo from nationalvevet.com

Bill Santiago is my new favorite comedian and linguistics professor.


Bill Santiago es lo máximo en Spanglish. Read this book

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting al Rey del Spanglish himself, Mr. Bill Santiago.  Bill had a great comedy set at the  Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, y después lo fui a saludar. I recently bought this excellent book called “Pardon My Spanglish, One Man’s Guide to Speaking The Habla,” which he wrote, and was intrigued to meet him.

Bill is the first person to accurately define what it means to be a Spanglish speaker. He describes, in very funny and clever terms, what it’s like to think and speak in 2 languages al mismo tiempo, all while conjugating verbs, mixing idioms, cultural references and even our little idiosyncracies. And the title says “Pardon..” pero no creo que sea muy apologetic al respecto. ¡Lo promueve con mucho gusto! So I was very happy he signed my book and gave me a copy of his dvd from his special on Comedy Central, clips you can also see here.

So here’s my recommendation to all of my Spanglish speaking amiguitos and visitors to this blog: Go get this book on Amazon. You will be laughing out loud with every page. It’s great writing. Very funny stuff!

This morning on the Gold Line Metro to Pasadena on my way to work, people were looking over probably thinking “¿Y pues ésta que lee?” Es que me moría de la risa, está super chistoso.


Back cover text menciona a Ponce de Leon, Ricky Martin, Cesar Chavez y Dora la Exploradora.

Here’s the link to Amazon so you can get the book.

You can also find it on  his website: http://www.billsantiago.com/ plus see his calendar and next locations for his standup.

bill santiago

Foto con mi nuevo amigo, Bill Santiago.