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Believe it or not, there was a time when bilingualism was something to be frowned upon. Not many years ago it was believed that exposing children to two languages would cause confusion and even slow down their brain development. Today, the view has been flipped on its head. Researchers are finding a slew of benefits from speaking more than one language, ranging from enhanced functions of the brain to delayed onset of dementia. The Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre of CUHK was established in 2008 to look at how children acquire two or more languages in Hong Kong and overseas communities, and have since been propagating the many benefits of early bilingualism.
The pictorial logo of the Centre consists of three symbolic elements──a vine leaf, its rainbow colours, and grapes carrying the Centre’s initials CBRC.
Grapevine branches out and expands organically, and is a common symbol of growth and vitality. Here, it is used to symbolize a child’s development. The early childhood years are a critical and productive time for language learning. Children pick up languages quickly, because the plasticity of their developing brains enables them to acquire two or more languages with ease as long as they are exposed to input from these languages regularly. Therefore, children have a unique advantage in language learning, an advantage that dissipates with age.
The iridescence of the vine leaf is a result of three colours mingling with one another: cerulean, magenta and emerald, representing Cantonese, Mandarin and English, alliteratively and respectively. These are official languages of Hong Kong according to the government’s bilingual policy of ‘two written languages and three spoken codes’. The rainbow colours also convey the idea that the Centre employs a myriad of interdisciplinary approaches in its research.
The Centre’s initials CBRC has a total of five counters, i.e., the open space in a fully or partly closed area within a letter. This attribute is fully utilized to form the shape of five grapes, signalling the fruition of development when a child attains competence in multiple languages. It also alludes to the hope that the Centre’s research and promotion efforts will bear fruit in its season, that Hong Kong parents will be fully aware of the boon for their children to grow up in a place where multilingualism and multiculturalism are woven into the fabric of life.
This article was originally published in No. 509/510, Newsletter in Dec 2017.