Jared Diamond, A New Guinea Campfire, And Why We Should Want To Speak Five Languages
by Barbara J. King
January 10, 2013
"Some years ago, Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, was sitting around a campfire in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. … Diamond tried a simple experiment. He asked the number of languages spoken by each of the 20 New Guineans gathered around the fire with him. The smallest number, he reports in his new book The World Until Yesterday, was five. "Several men," he wrote, "spoke from eight to 12 languages, and the champion was a man who spoke 15." These weren't dialects, but mutually unintelligible languages.
"… Geographer and evolutionary biologist Diamond clearly feels that a person's worldview is expanded when she speaks more than a single language — but in his book he also says practical benefits flow from bilingualism. One example comes from a Canadian study of 400 people with a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms were first experienced by bilingual people in the sample at an age 4 or 5 years older than by monolingual people."
Read the full article at http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/01/10/168878237/jared-diamond-a-new-guinea-campfire-and-why-we-should-want-to-speak-five-languag
Read a related article about multilingualism and Alzheimer’s disease at http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/01/10/169066535/speaking-more-than-one-language-could-prevent-alzheimers