April 12, 2022Print | PDF
On the latest episode of CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s podcast, Chasing Life, listeners will learn about the benefits of learning new languages from a renowned expert in the field. Members of the Wilfrid Laurier University community will recognize the expert’s voice: John W. Schwieter.
Schwieter, a professor of Spanish and Linguistics who is cross appointed to Laurier’s Department of Psychology, is interviewed about topics related to language learning and bilingualism, including which areas of the brain are responsible for language acquisition and processing, and tips for adults who are struggling to learn a second language. He was excited to speak with Gupta and share his expertise with a global audience.
“Being interviewed by Dr. Gupta was an amazing experience,” says Schwieter. “He was extremely kind, personable and easy to talk to. When he asked me about my journey and how I got to where I am today, we found out that we were both born in the American Midwest with similar language experiences in our families, so we seemed to bond from start. He told me that he had stayed up late the night before reading a book I co-wrote, Introducing Linguistics, and that ‘everyone should read it.’ Hearing that from Sanjay Gupta was incredible.”
Schwieter is the director of Bilingualism Matters at Laurier, a research-based information and service centre for bilingualism and language learning which operates out of Laurier’s Language Acquisition, Multilingualism, and Cognition Laboratory. His research focuses on how humans learn and process more than one language, and how the co-existence of multiple languages in one brain affects cognitive functions such as attention, working memory, planning, ignoring irrelevant information and the flexibility to switch between tasks.
"The early bird gets the worm, but it's never too late to learn."
In the podcast episode, titled “How Language Lights Up the Brain,” Schwieter and Gupta discover that they both had formative early experiences with their grandfathers, who dealt with cognitive issues following strokes.
“That was really, I think for me, what got me really interested in the brain, kind of like you became very interested in language," says Gupta.
Schwieter describes how humans learn and benefit from language over the lifespan, from how fetuses are sensitive to language around them in the womb, to how knowing a second language can delay the onset of dementia.
“No one ever really thinks about learning a new language, or simply being a bilingual, as being healthy, or as being an exercise, because it’s not something we can really see the results of on the outside. But we certainly can see the results when we are looking at the inside of the brain,” says Schwieter. “The early bird gets the worm, but it’s never too late to learn.”
Chasing Life is available for download on all major podcast platforms.