Staff Member Projects

Bilingual language control

Ingrid Christoffels

ChristoffelsAs soon as we see a four-legged animal with floppy ears and a tail, Dutch people will know to name it a HOND, but might have to choose between naming it dog, or possibly Hund or chien as well.

Most of the time, bilinguals are remarkably capable of controlling their language output. However, when speaking in your second language, first language words sometimes intrude even when you are talking to someone who will not understand them. How are bilinguals able to control the language they speak in? How are you able to switch between languages? Is controlling language output similar to other executive functions? Then, how can you translate between languages? Since both languages are used simultaneously they should profoundly interfere with each other. And how does language context influence speech production? Our research indicates that even the first language may suffer in bilingual surroundings. Ingrid Christoffels studies language switching and translation in collaboration with researchers from the LIBC, Maastricht, Nijmegen and Amsterdam. Using brain measures (EEG, fMRI) to study overt speech production is an exciting new development. We also work a network model (ancestral graphs) to study how brain regions collaborate to support language control.