Using Google Translate? Ask a Bilingual Instead!

Gustavo Gutierrez, Abby Minervini, Ryley Park, Ana Rios, and Santiago Valdez

One of the many myths in the field of bilingualism is that bilinguals are “born translators” due to their ability to switch and communicate in more than one language. Nonetheless, if you have ever witnessed a professional interpreter in action whether at a hospital, courtroom, or school, you may have noticed that interpreting and translating are no easy tasks. While we know that being bilingual does not automatically turn you into a professional interpreter/translator, it appears that language brokering, the task of translating and interpreting that many bilingual children take on to aid their parents or relatives, seems to benefit bilinguals’ ability to interpret and translate in settings where it is critical that communication is as accurate and smooth as possible, such as in the medical setting. The following study explores the relationship between language acquisition background and interpretation and translation abilities by examining the performance of two groups of bilinguals, namely Early Childhood Bilinguals and Second Language Learners, when asked to facilitate communication by translating and interpreting within a medical context. Keep on reading to find out the differing translation abilities and tendencies of these two groups of bilinguals!

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Attrition amongst Spanish Bilingual Young Adults in Los Angeles

Elie Barbar, Said B., Bel Jacob

It is well-known that one’s language fluency decreases the less one utilizes it. In particular, heritage speakers are a unique case in which their first language is spoken often within a familial context, yet in all other cases, it is not used. This study sets out to examine Spanish heritage speakers in the Los Angeles area to determine whether growing up solely in Los Angeles has affected their level of attrition in the Spanish language. The main hypothesis was that because Spanish is only spoken in a familial context, the speakers would have an average or below-average grasp of the language. The methods utilized to study this included a mix of surveys, tests, and interviews conducted to determine attrition rates amongst the participants. After using these methods, we found that Spanish Heritage Bilingual Young Adults in L.A. had an above-average fluency within the language, exceeding our original expectation of the participants having average or below-average levels of fluency. The main assessment from the data as to why these speakers have retained their heritage language so well is due to the environment they grow up in. Within Los Angeles, Spanish is widely spoken so not only do the participants have a chance to speak it with their family but with the outside world as well.

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Native English Speakers and Bilingual Speakers with English as L2, Difference Between their Syntactic Knowledge Acquisition

Viktoria Hovhannisyan, Alisara Koomthong, Tomoe Murata, Kota Tsukamoto

Syntactic knowledge is the understanding of the connection between the words in a sentence. This skill develops over time in children when being exposed to a language from their environment. Previous research demonstrated that bilinguals show different structured outcomes for language and cognitive performance, in terms of being at disadvantage. This study argues that bilinguals with English as a second language speakers who grew up acquiring English tend to develop syntactic awareness more effectively and, as a result, perform better on grammatical tasks as opposed to native English speakers. We collected data from 20 undergraduate students and asked them to complete grammar tasks along with answering questions that would reveal the level of their syntactic knowledge. We found that native English speakers are more knowledgeable in syntactic structures based on their scores than international bilingual English speakers.

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Does accent hold-over depend on the conversational context? A comparison of conversations between two bilinguals and a bilingual-monolingual pair

Theo Chen, Joan Kim, Yoori Kwak, Sumeyye Nabieva

In our study, we explored code-switching and accent hold-overs for Korean-English bilinguals. Accent hold-overs are theorized to happen when a person is code-switching from one language to another, and refers to a lag in the switching of phonological inventories. While a similar effect has been found in processing, there isn’t a consensus on such a phenomenon in production. This has both psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic implications, as it explores both actual language production as well as sociocultural factors that might influence bilingual speech.

We ran a small experiment in which Korean-English bilinguals read off a script to either another Korean-English bilingual or to an English monolingual. Our script included both borrowings and code-switching. We expected that we would see more of an accent hold-over during code-switching when Korean-English bilinguals spoke to each other. However, we found no evidence of an accent hold-over than expected. This is supported by some additional studies on the topic but could also be a result of our methodology and process, as opposed to an actual reflection of bilingualism.

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Love at First Voice

Jasmine Beroukhim, Nicole Palleja, Marydith Macabale, and Jaee Shin

Netflix’s hit dating show, Love is Blind has captured the attention of millions of viewers for its original take and format. In the show the contestants are separated by gender, and converse with one another through pods where a wall separates them from seeing each other. The show reimagines dating by erasing material aspects of a contestant’s identity right down to the sound of their voice. Throughout the show noticeable shifts in voice were apparent, and while it is well documented that humans have an innate capacity to shift styles through their voices, little research has been completed on how vocal changes are expressed in the discourse of reality dating shows.  Our study focused on the implications of vocal modulations in the context of reality television to investigate how an individual’s voice can contribute to the shaping of identity. In discussing this topic, we are interested in how the human voice can be used to influence perception and how women’s voices may reflect their perceived gender roles. We believe it is crucial to better understand the power of the human voice in leveraging perceptions and the societal and cultural reasons why a woman’s voice may change when speaking to a potential partner.

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