A recent study led by Janet Werker, a psychologist at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, suggests that children who learn two languages at once may have increased cognitive abilities such as enhanced visual and auditory sensitivity. While Werker does not believe that a person must grow up in a bilingual environment to gain such advantages, the study suggests that it can’t hurt.
Werker studied both bilingual and monolingual infants over their first eight months of development, comparing their perceptual abilities. One of the unique findings was that bilingual children seemed to be able to “change the rules” involved with language learning — essentially using the sensory skills needed for both languages in a variety of mental situations.
The findings run counter to the theory that suggests bilingualism may actually lead to language confusion. Benjamin Lee Whorf, the American linguist, once said, “Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we think about.” Whorf’s linguistic studies led to the principles of the Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity – a belief that speakers of different languages learn, think, and act differently depending on the language they speak and write. From Whorf’s findings, one may conclude that a child who engages in code-switching – the use of two or more languages in everday interactions – will develop language confusion. Scholars postulate that language confusion thus equals confusion with simple cognitive processing. Werker points out that there is no strong evidence of this – in fact bilingualism is common throughout the world and only in North America does it seem to be an issue.
Werker’s findings lend credence to the theory that babies are just as able to learn two languages from birth as they are one. In addition, babies who grow up in a bilingual environment are learning to pay attention to perceptual cues pertaining to two distinguishing languages, potentially increasing how much time they spend processing the world around them.
Have you had any experience that supports or contests this study? Has speaking more than one language boosted your ability to navigate through the world, or has it ever caused you trouble? Share your thoughts, below.
SUCCESSFUL INVESTING: BP stock receives ‘hold’ rating
The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV) February 6, 2007 | Andrew Leckey Q. I am a shareholder in BP PLC who is concerned about the company’s prospects, especially with its leadership issues. – K.L., via the Internet A. The giant oil company, formed by the merger of British Petroleum Co. and Amoco Corp. in 1998, has set the bar high with production growth targets that exceed those of its competitors.
It has an impressive portfolio of deep-water oil and gas projects and in liquefied natural gas, while its chemical operations are especially strong in Asia. A consistent performer, it hasn’t had an unprofitable year in the past decade, and its disclosure of financial information has been admirable.
Despite the London-based company’s positives, the entire oil industry’s dramatic earnings growth is slowing down, and BP finds itself dealing with its own particular set of issues.
BP (BP) shares are down 6 percent this year following gains of 4 percent last year, 10 percent in 2005 and 18 percent in 2004. Oil spills in Alaska and allegations of improper energy trading, which it denies, have been concerns. It also derives more of its production from Russia than any other major oil company, an added political risk. web site bp stock price
Most recently, an independent panel chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker III found that its U.S. operations had “significant” safety problems at five refineries. The 374-page report, commissioned after an explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery killed 15 workers and injured many others, determined that effective safety leadership had not been provided. Federal regulators have similarly been critical.
BP has settled several lawsuits and set aside $400 million to resolve legal disputes from that explosion. The total cost, including repairs and lost profits, is estimated to be about $2 billion.
Amid these issues, the consensus analyst rating on BP stock is currently “hold,” according to Thomson Financial. That consists of five “strong buys,” one “buy,” 14 “holds” and one “underperform.” Regarding management, Chief Executive John Browne, who boldly built the company into a global powerhouse during a decade that included the Amoco merger, is stepping down from his position this summer, 1 1/2 years ahead of schedule. He said the safety problems were his responsibility.
Tony Hayward, head of BP’s exploration and production unit, will replace him. He is moving quickly to improve safety, including allowing an outside body to monitor safety for five years.
BP earnings are expected to decline nearly 2 percent in 2007. The three-year annualized growth rate forecast is for a 14 percent gain.
Q. Should I keep my shares of Artisan International Fund? – C.J., via the Internet A. It’s definitely not a run-of-the-mill foreign fund.
Highly respected portfolio manager Mark Yockey has run it since its inception 11 years ago. Because he detects potential growth in many more places than most of his competitors, the holdings are diversified across many sectors and regions.
While value funds have generally outpaced growth funds such as Yockey’s in recent years, the patient manager’s results have been solid. That success has attracted considerable money to not only this fund, but to institutional and separate accounts that he also runs.
The $11 billion Artisan International Fund (ARTIX) is up 18 percent over the past 12 months and has a three-year annualized return of 18 percent. Both results rank at or near the top one- fourth of foreign large-growth funds.
“Artisan International gets our highest recommendation as a good core choice to build your foreign portfolio around,” said Dan Lefkovitz, analyst with Morningstar Inc. in Chicago. “However, because of its large asset size, you probably shouldn’t expect relative returns to look as good as in the past, because it can’t be as flexible as it once was.” In seeking companies he expects to provide superior earnings growth, San Francisco-based Yockey includes smaller developed markets and some emerging-market firms and is willing to build up significant stakes in individual sectors. Those moves add some risk. Assisted by 10 analysts who pay close attention to stock price, Yockey often adds nontraditional growth stocks, such as banks and insurance companies, to his holdings.
More than one-third of Artisan International’s assets are in financial services. Telecommunications and consumer goods are other concentrations. Its top holdings were recently UBS AG and Nestle of Switzerland; RWE and Allianz of Germany; Credit Saison, Mizuho Financial Group and ORIX of Japan; Kookmin Bank of South Korea; Fortum Oyj of Finland; and China Mobile of Hong Kong. go to web site bp stock price
This “no-load” (no sales charge) fund requires a $1,000 minimum initial investment. While its annual expense ratio of 1.2 percent is less than most no-load foreign large-cap funds, Lefkovitz believes it should be lower because of its significant asset growth.
Q. My grandfather inherited stock when his parents died and now wants to gift the shares to me. How does he calculate his cost basis and how do I calculate mine? – D.H., via the Internet A. Cost basis is the original value of a stock for tax purposes.
When you inherit stock, your cost basis is the fair-market value on the date of the donor’s death. So whatever the stock was worth when your grandfather inherited it is his cost basis. When you receive it as a gift, your cost basis would be the same as your grandfather’s cost basis.
“It might make more sense in terms of tax benefit to have your grandfather hold onto the stock and include it in an inheritance, instead of giving it as a gift now,” said David Bendix, a certified public accountant and certified financial planner with Bendix Financial Group in Garden City, N.Y.
That’s because your grandfather’s cost basis could be significantly lower than the fair-market value of the stock at the date of his death. In an inheritance, you’d received a “stepped-up” basis for tax purposes in which your basis is the fair-market value of the stock on the date of the donor’s death.
Troy woman sues Bank of America: Potential class action claims bank never modified loan despite assurances go to website bac home loans
Missouri Lawyers Media January 3, 2011 | Anna Vitale A Troy woman has sued Bank of America in federal court in St. Louis claiming the bank “has systematically failed to comply” with a federal home loan modification program.
Following the implementation of TARP in 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department began the Home Affordable Modification Program. Under HAMP, qualifying home loans can be modified depending on, among other things, the borrower’s income level and hardship information. Because Bank of America accepted TARP money, it was required to identify and modify qualifying loans under HAMP, claims the suit.
The suit, filed as a potential class action on Dec. 22, claims Bank of America hasn’t done that.
“Bank of America’s general practice and culture is to string homeowners along with no intention of providing actual and permanent modifications,” states the petition. “Instead, Bank of America has put processes in place that are designed to foster delay, mislead homeowners and avoid modifying mortgage loans.” The named plaintiff, Susan Fraser, claims she has been given the run around by Bank of America since December 2008. Fraser claims she experienced a number of hardships over the last few years, beginning in 2007 when her income from her job at Enterprise Holdings dropped because of a slowdown in business. She also got divorced, and one of her five children was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Fraser claims she was told multiple times by Bank of America representatives that she qualified for loan modification under HAMP and that the modification had gone through. But, as of the date of the suit, she had not received confirmation that the modifications contract had been accepted and implemented, she claims. website bac home loans
Fraser’s attorney, Michael J. Flannery, of Carey, Danis & Lowe in St. Louis, did not respond to a reporter’s requests for comment by press time.
Fraser’s is not an isolated case, the lawsuit says. Bank of America had more than one million HAMP-eligible loans at the beginning of 2010 but to date has only begun modification proceedings on about 237,000 of them, the suit claims. Of those, only 12,761 have been permanently modified.
The suit offers an explanation for the low numbers: Bank of America reaps financial gains by not modifying loans. For example, because Bank of America services but doesn’t own many of the eligible loans, it collects a “fixed percentage of the unpaid principal balance of the loans in the pool,” claims the suit. Reducing the unpaid principal therefore diminishes what Bank of America collects.
A spokeswoman for Bank of America did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment by press time, but a press release dated Dec. 21 on Bank of America’s website states the bank completed more than 250,000 mortgage modifications in 2010, either under HAMP or nongovernmental programs.
Suits with similar allegations to the potential class action have been filed by the attorneys general of Arizona and Nevada. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has not filed a lawsuit, said spokeswoman Nanci Gonder.
The case is Susan Fraser v. Bank of America, N.A. and BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, 4:10-cv-02400-AGF.
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