Do You Speak Colbertian?
Do you speak Colbertian?
Researchers at Northwestern University invented a new language based on the coinages of Stephen Colbert, star of “The Colbert Report,” in order to test whether knowing multiple tongues makes it easier to learn another one. It does, they concluded: “We found that people who learned both English and Spanish at an early age and continued to speak them, better retained the words in Colbertian,” said James Bartolotti, a Northwestern Ph.D. candidate and co-author of the study.
Bartolotti and his colleague Viorica Marian tested 24 subjects — half monolinguals and half bilinguals — on 24 words from their fictitious language. The researchers used some of Colbert’s words (like “truthiness”) and made up some of their own, and then taught study participants to recognize invented nouns from the new language. The study found that those who speak more than one language “experience less interference from their native language when listening to speech in a newly learned language” than those who only speak a single tongue.
Bilingual people have more practice separating languages and deploying them appropriately, which helps in learning yet another language. “They switch between languages their whole lives. That’s why the bilingual participants learned Colbertian faster,” Bartolotti said.
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