Tag Archives: culture

Bilingual Chemistry Classroom Posters

English-Chinese Chemistry Posters Classroom Set. Click to download editable Word document version.
Click to download editable Word document version

Decorate your Chemistry classroom with these 40 free bilingual Chemistry posters.

Topics include:

  • lab equipment;
  • redox;
  • ions;
  • organic nomenclature; and
  • molecular geometry.

Feel free to edit or share them.

Also… Get the famous ‘all-natural banana’ poster prints here.

Poster Selection 3

Remember to check out our T-Shirt Store with T-shirts in 7 languages!

Visit the T-Shirt Store for Chemistry T-Shirts Made in Australia in 7 Languages. Buy online.

Get your My First Physics Alphabet poster set here, in both Pink and Blue editions

My Physics Alphabet Poster Set of 4 in BLUE
My Physics Alphabet Poster Set of 4 in PINK

For more posters and free infographics, visit the Posters section of the site here.


Got 600 Hours to Spare? Become Bilingual!

hello in many languages

In 2011, 17% of Australians21% of Americans and 53% of Europeans spoke two languages fluently. Being bilingual not only opened them up to new cultures, and earned them more money, but also, according to several recent studies, protected them from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Here are 9 great reasons why you should learn a new language.

Bilingual people in Europe

1. Bilinguals have higher cognitive processes.

As Maria Konnikova writes in the New York Times: “[A bilingual child]… develops enhanced executive control, or the ability to effectively manage what are called higher cognitive processes such as problem-solving, memory, and thought. [A bilingual child] becomes better able to inhibit some responses, promote others, and generally emerges with a more flexible and agile mind. It’s a phenomenon that researchers call the bilingual advantage.”

2. Bilinguals are better able to attend to important information and ignore the less important.

Cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok has spent her career studying how bilingualism sharpens the mind. She said in an interview with the New York Times in 2011: “We asked all the children if a certain illogical sentence was grammatically correct: “Apples grow on noses.” The monolingual children couldn’t answer. They’d say, “That’s silly” and they’d stall. But the bilingual children would say, in their own words, “It’s silly, but it’s grammatically correct.” The bilinguals, we found, manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.”

3. Bilinguals are better at multitasking.

Bilingual people are not only accustomed to switching rapidly between two languages, but they’re also thought to process the semantics of each language simultaneously at a subconscious level when they’re communicating using just one language. Sustained practice at processing two tasks simultaneously when they speak primes bilingual people to be slightly better at multi-tasking simply because they practice it on a daily basis.

4. Bilinguals are somewhat protected from the effects of dementia.

A 2006 paper by Bialystok et al. showed that bilingual dementia patients showed an onset of symptoms 4.3 years later than their monolingual counterparts. The disparity is thought to be explained by the increased cognitive load demanded by comprehending and speaking in two languages. The brains of bilingual patients with Alzheimer’s disease function cognitively at the same level of monolingual patients who have suffered less brain degeneration.

5. Bilinguals are better at spatial working memory tasks.

A 2013 article by Luo et al. tested the spatial working memory of monolingual and bilingual adults of different ages. The researchers found that bilingual people outperformed their monolingual counterparts in spatial working memory tasks at all age levels. (Having a strong spatial working memory helps with navigation, direction, location, and visually processing spatial orientation of objects in our environment.)

6. Being bilingual improves cultural awareness.

Language is inextricably linked with culture, and learning a language involves a developing a heightened awareness of the culture that speaks that language. Bilingual speakers can understand jokes and sayings in two languages as well as any mistranslations between the two that might not make sense to a speaker of either language. Being bilingual often leads to being bicultural.

7. Bilinguals earn more money worldwide.

Generally, employers see being bilingual as a valuable skill. Bilingual people more than their monolingual counterparts in many parts of the world. In Florida, bilingual workers earn $7000 per year more than their monolingual counterparts. In many American states, bilingual teachers receive a $5000 annual bonus. It’s also no coincidence that Luxembourg, with 99% of its population bilingual, has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

8. Being bilingual makes travelling easier and cheaper.

I know from experience that if you only speak English in China, life can be confusing and expensive (unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to have bilingual people on hand to help you out). Travellers who don’t speak Chinese can only visit high-end hotels and restaurants, and they need an expensive bilingual travel agent to book tours. When I was in Beijing in 2011, Great Wall tours were five times more expensive if you booked via an English-speaking agent instead of directly with the Chinese tour operator. Long-distance bus tickets were double the price for those who couldn’t haggle in Chinese, and China’s leading plane-ticket website is about 20% cheaper if you purchase via the Chinese-language version of the site instead of using the translated English version. Finally, of course, being fluent in Chinese earns you much more respect from the locals when you visit China.

We can’t choose our first language. However, we can choose our second, third and fourth languages. I studied English, French, German and Welsh in school but still chose to learn Mandarin Chinese after graduation from high school. Chinese attracted me because it trains parts of the brain that English doesn’t: it’s visual, logical and of increasing importance culturally and economically worldwide. For me, Chinese was the key to a fascinating culture very different from my own.

9. It takes only 600 hours of dedicated study to learn many new languages!

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State has compiled approximate learning expectations for a number of languages based on the length of time it takes to achieve “proficiency” in each language. The good news is that some (French, Italian, German and more) can be learned in only 600 hours of dedicated study.

How many languages do you speak? What’s your next language?

For free language-learning materials, click here.

Which language will you choose to learn next? Can you think of any downsides to being bilingual? Put your ideas in the comments section below.

Book: The Importance of Living

Practical Handbook for Life. Soul Food.
471 pages, ★★★★★

The Importance of Living should be read at leisure with 耐泡 tea (any tea that rebrews well), a large pad and pens, with nothing to do and nowhere to go for two days. Get very comfortable. Put everything you need within reach.

For tea, I recommend a very fragrant, full-bodied black tea (红茶) with a strong, sour, fruity after-sweetness (回甘) such as Jinjumei (金骏眉); because it pleases your tongue, body and soul in a manner that builds after being sipped. Or try the redder, high-Qi (气) end of the Oolong spectrum, such as Big Red Robe (大红袍), which is designed to be inhaled rather than drunk. Both teas would work equally well. Reading this, coupled with the tea, feels like being hugged.

Then curl up with this book, a heavy blanket and a large, ring-bound notepad. Sip this book like you would chicken soup or a hot lemon drink when you’re ill. You’re not ill, but you’ll feel as cured and rejuvenated in two days’ time as if you were. It’s a great excuse to stay home.

However, that soup gets filling. Take breaks every so often to make sure you’re taking everything in (by “filling”, I mean that it’s full of beautiful, palatable, digestible answers and doesn’t ask the reader many questions).

The Importance of Living is a detailed and healthy definition of a good life well-lived. It’s laced with Chinese history, culture and language (with explanatory footnotes) and written with childlike amazement at every simple aspect of life. It’s a childlike re-analysis of everything you do. He philosophises about:

  • how tall your chair should be
  • how to drink tea
  • how to categorise national stereotypes
  • with whom to smoke tobacco
  • why not to care too much about money
  • the ideal school curriculum
  • and hundreds of other life-tips

It makes a delightful and reassuring read. His thoughts are peppered with supporting quotes from ancient Chinese scholars such as Mencius and Confucius, and the book’s both beautifully-written and logically-structured. On the first read, I recommend making detailed notes. See these two mind maps on my wonderfully red bed below.

Then try to familiarise yourself with The Importance of Living as you would a Bible, a reference manual or a handbook. Familiarise yourself with the book’s layout so you can look up answers to life’s questions later.

Each reader will find musings in this book relevant to his or her own life. So I was delighted to read that Confucius had described exactly how I feel about my work as an educator in Beijing:

“Confucius seemed to have felt that scholarship without thinking was more dangerous than thinking unbacked by scholarship” — Lin Yutang 林语堂

“Thinking without learning makes one flighty, but learning without thinking is a disaster” — Confucius

Lin Yutang then talks almost prophetically about the state of Chinese education today when he asks:

“Why are there school marks and diplomas, and how did it come about that the mark and the diploma have, in the student’s mind, come to take the place of the true aim of education?” — Lin Yutang 林语堂

I blogged about “following passions” and “eliminating credentialism” some time ago, so this passage on page 390 particularly moved me. Read the middle paragraph in the picture below (starting with “Confucius”). It’s exactly what I’ve been saying on WordPress…

The book is full of gems like this, but you’ll have to read it and find your own. Give this book unrestricted access to your brain. This book requires that you reflect on every minute aspect of your daily life. In terms of living books (and not just reading them), The Importance of Living would make an ideal sequel to Fight Club because it builds a highly-refined life from scratch, like a beautifully-written, logically-structured instruction manual.

This book is what the terrible Instant Turnaround could have been if it were written by a refined, cultured, spiritual (and Chinese) author; and not by a bored Western office-worker with all the imagination drained out of his corporate monkey-skull. Everyone should put aside their moneymaking trivialities for two days and read this book on the couch. ★★★★★