Language and the Brain

The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain (TedEd video)

It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.

Movie Recommendations from the Language Department

French: Argent de Poche (Small change)

Summary (from Rotten Tomatoes): Filmed in the small French city of Thiers, François Truffaut’s episodic comedy-drama concerns one of the director’s favorite subjects: childhood. A class clown stalls the teacher long enough to avoid answering a question, a toddler ends up on a high window ledge, a little girl announces to the neighborhood that her parents are punishing her, and the new boy in school hides his poor, abusive home life in these intertwining stories illustrating the joys and sorrows of growing up.

  • Language: French
  • Country: France
  • Year: 1976
  • Genre: Drama

Spanish: Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)

Summary (from Rotten Tomatoes): Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) is a Spanish ship mechanic and part-time poet who is left a quadriplegic after a diving accident. This film tells the true story of Sampedro’s 30-year battle for the legal right to end his own life. He develops close relationships with his long-term lawyer Julia (Belén Rueda) and his friend Rosa (Lola Dueñas), who tries to convince him that his life is worth living. Despite his situation, Ramon manages to inspire those around him to live life to the fullest.

  • Language: Spanish
  • Country: Spain
  • Year: 2004
  • Genre: Drama, biography

Chinese: To Live

Summary (from Rotten Tomatoes): Fugui’s (Ge You) gambling leads him to lose everything, including his wife, Jiazhen (Gong Li), and his home. Over the following decades, he struggles to live as a peasant. He tries joining a theater troupe, and then he enlists in the Chinese army in hopes of being a good citizen. Yet, just as things get better — and Jiazhen and their baby daughter return to him — the Cultural Revolution begins and tragedy continues to strike his family. Despite numerous hardships, Fugui never gives up hope.

  • Language: Chinese
  • Country: China
  • Year: 1994
  • Genre: Drama

Arabic: Captain Abu Raed

Summary (from IMBD): When as old airport janitor finds a captain’s hat in the trash, he gets pulled into the lives of children in his poor neighborhood. He weaves imaginary stories of his world adventures to offer hope in the face of their harsh reality.

  • Country: Jordan
  • Language: Arabic
  • Year: 2007
  • Genre: Drama

Classics: BBC documentary : Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth

Watch this three episode documentary where “classicist Dr Michael Scott journeys to Athens to explore how drama first began.” (