As part of the Festival of Ideas, Cambridge Bilingualism Network recently welcomed over 100 people to a hugely successful event held on 29th October 2016 on the topic of 'Bilingualism: literacy and cognition'.
As part of the event, Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett presented an overview of the MEITS project, highlighting the importance of promoting the value of languages in the UK and beyond, and the need for greater collaboration in terms of both research and policy. Given the worrying decline in the number of students studying languages in schools and universities across the UK in recent years, Professor Ayres-Bennett emphasised the importance of working together with non-higher education partners in order to change attitudes towards multilingualism and inspire interest in language learning.
Talks were also given by Professor Ianthi Tsimpli (University of Cambridge) and Dr Roberto Filippi (Anglia Ruskin University). Professor Tsimpli discussed literacy for bilingual children and drew on a series of research projects which suggest that bilingualism and biliteracy work together to contribute to the bilingual advantage, and that reading in the languages we speak not only improves oral skills, but can also benefit cognition. In addition, Dr Filippi presented research which suggests cognitive advantages for bilinguals in some areas, such as an increased ability to screen out linguistic interference when compared to monolinguals.