The Bilingual Advantage

Q. Has the development of new neuroimaging technologies changed your work?

A. Tremendously. It used to be that we could only see what parts of the brain lit up when our subjects performed different tasks. Now, with the new technologies, we can see how all the brain structures work in accord with each other.

In terms of monolinguals and bilinguals, the big thing that we have found is that the connections are different. So we have monolinguals solving a problem, and they use X systems, but when bilinguals solve the same problem, they use others. One of the things we’ve seen is that on certain kinds of even nonverbal tests, bilingual people are faster. Why? Well, when we look in their brains through neuroimaging, it appears like they’re using a different kind of a network that might include language centers to solve a completely nonverbal problem. Their whole brain appears to rewire because of bilingualism.

Q. Bilingualism used to be considered a negative thing — at least in the United States. Is it still?

A. Until about the 1960s, the conventional wisdom was that bilingualism was a disadvantage. Some of this was xenophobia. Thanks to science, we now know that the opposite is true.

Now if only I used my German every day... sad face.

Thanks, @Wikileaks - U.S. Fought to Keep Haitian Wages Down (for cheap t-shirts!)

Two years ago, Haiti unanimously passed a law sharply raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. That doesn’t sound like much (and it isn’t), but it was two and a half times the then-minimum of 24 cents an hour.

This infuriated American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss that pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes. They said they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, and they got the State Department involved. The U.S. ambassador put pressure on Haiti’s president, who duly carved out a $3 a day minimum wage for textile companies (the U.S. minimum wage, which itself is very low, works out to $58 a day).


Stay classy.

From Paul Newman to Paul Graham: part 2 of my @TechCrunch interview w @CDixon

Alexis Ohanain continues his coversation with Founder Stories host Chris Dixon by discussing some of his activities and interests outside of Reddit.

Highlights of their chat include Ohanian telling Dixon he considers Paul Newman, “the OG of social enterprise” and that Newman was the inspiration for Breadpig, Ohanian’s organization that creates “geeky things” and donates profits to worthy causes.  On his role as the Y Combinator ambassador to New York, where Ohanian mentors budding New York-based Y Combinator founders, Ohanian notes “you can’t spell New York City without YC” and on founding his angel investing firm Das Kapital Capital, Ohanian says he did it, “mostly so I can mess with the tellers of Bank of America—are you a communist?”

It is a breezy and entertaining episode where the two go on to discuss World of WarCraft, Everquest and an interesting guerilla advertising campaign deployed by the Y Combinator company Grubwithus.  The two conclude with Ohanian telling Dixon the key ingredient Ohanian must have before doing a start-up.

In the video below, Ohanian talks about “taking the agony out of travel search” with Hipmunk—where Ohanian serves as the marketing director, his mixed emotions about marketing and the power of word of mouth advertising.

Hurray! They posted even more videos from the interview I wrote about yesterday (reddit stories). Thanks, guys!