Producing language means that we need to select which words we want to say. This requires language control to make sure that we use the intended word (e.g. 'dog') and that we avoid other, similar words (e.g. 'cat' or 'door'). Bilinguals have an additional challenge: They also need to make sure that they select words in the intended language (e.g. 'dog' in Spanish and not in English).
Across various projects, we study how monolinguals and bilinguals produce the words that they want to say. We have studied this in bilinguals by asking them to switch languages in response to a cue telling them which language to use. We found that bilinguals use areas related to language control and inhibition (e.g. right interior frontal gyrus) to do this. Bilinguals especially suppressed their more proficient language to speak a less proficient language. The way these brain regions are involved in language switching can also be modulated by experiences such as language learning and by the way bilinguals switch. In future research projects, we will study if and how language control changes across the lifespan in both bilinguals and monolinguals.
Angela de Bruin
Dr de Bruin's research interests include bilingualism, language switching, language production, executive control and cognitive ageing.