Jonathan Choo Kam Kitt
Supervisors: Dr Jessica Price, Dr Hoo Keat Wong
Bilingualism, the ability to read, speak, write and listen to more than one language, is an incredibly challenging task for the human mind. In practice, switching between languages in a conversation may seem simple. However, cognitively, the mechanism that allows for the seamless experience of juggling multiple languages based on the needs of the current interactional context is immensely complex.
Research in this field concurs that the Executive Function (EF) system plays a central role enabling bilinguals to seamlessly switch between languages within a conversation. EEG and fMRI research has indicated significant differences in the structure, function and connectivity of a bilingual brain, in a way that enhances the executive functioning system. From greater grey matter volume to stronger and shorter N2/P3 complexes, current research are finding more and more impacts of bilingualism on the human brain. However, the methods by which the EF system is enhanced by learning multiple languages is still a matter of controversy.
In my research, I explore how bilingual experience enhances the EF system using behavioural and neurophysiological data. The results of this research can hopefully push for a reformation of educational policies in Malaysia. One such policy that is impacted directly is the MBM-MBI policy implemented by MOE back in 2010. On paper, its noble goals should allow for an integration of bilingualism into Malaysia's educational system. However, in practice, students in government schools are only exposed to English during English classes, as the policy to teach Science and Maths in English (PPSMI) was abolished in 2013. By understanding how bilingual experience impacts EF system, my research hopes to push for policies that would see government schools integrating bilingual education into its core principles.