It is common for kids to dream about having a superpower such as the ability to fly, superhuman strength, to be able to talk to animals, to disappear, or just to able to beat the “bad guys”! Part of the reason Greek mythology appeals to kids learning Greek is they get to immerse themselves in a world of skills and superpowers they can identify with, such as the bravery of Theseus, the wisdom of Athena, the strength of Heracles, and the mind of Odysseus – a main reason we have immersed the Ellinopoula syllabus and our core learning feature – the Learning Path - in Greek mythology. This allows kids to to have Greek lessons online and learn about the wonders of their Greek heritage!
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In the epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” there is one skill that ends the war in favor of the Greeks and manages to get Odysseus back home to Ithaca – his brilliant mind. Indeed Homer recognizes that Odysseus’s mind is the ultimate superpower as he defeats mortals, gods, and beasts through the empathy towards his comrades, his leadership among kings, his inventiveness in war and travel, and his absolute focus despite all the impossible obstacles put in front of him. Although we don’t know whether Odysseus and other epic heroes were bilingual, we know bilingual kids harness similar mental “superpowers” to Odysseus versus their monolingual peers!
Bigger, smarter, brains
There are many compelling reasons for kids to learn Greek at school or through online Greek lessons - bilingual kids also have an intelligence advantage over monolingual kids! Researchers Peal and Lambert demonstrated that “bilinguals appear to have a more diversified set of mental abilities than the monolinguals” and that “bilinguals performed significantly better than monolinguals on both verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests.”
Research has revealed that the area of the brain responsible for language is bigger in bilingual kids; researchers at the University of Reading and Georgetown University lead by Christos Pliatsikas found that the regions of the brain affected by bilingualism are those involved in acquiring and perceiving language , as well as in how we control what language we use each time, if we know more than one. The same study also revealed that bilinguals showed more gray matter compared to monolinguals, in various regions of the brain associated with language, as seen with the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
These differences in brain structure seem to translate into numerous mental benefits. For instance, bilinguals are more successful at learning additional languages, as found by Meisel et al., in a study for the University of Hamburg in Germany
As numerous researchers have found, the benefits of forming of a bilingual brain carry on for a lifetime – research carried out by Albán-Gonzáleza et al shows that in adults who go on to develop Alzheimer’s, on average, monolinguals are affected by it 5 years earlier than bilinguals. Similarly, Antoniou and Wright also highlight the evidence in favor of lifelong bilingualism enhancing the brain’s executive functions and possibly protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.
Inspiration to achieve
As parents and teachers, it never ceases to amaze us how children’s eyes light up with Greek mythology and stories like Aesop’s Fables. A world of adventure, wonderful feats of courage, and epic battles and heroes fuels their imagination and curiosity to discover the world. Apart from a plethora of Hellenic virtues, Greek mythology teaches young children about the ultimate superpower: wisdom. Similar to Odysseus who showcased his wisdom through his ingenuity, diplomacy, and verbal eloquence to surpass the obstacles set in front of him by gods, monsters, beasts, and mortals - so too can children learn to use their wisdom to surpass obstacles in life.
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- “The effect of bilingualism on brain development from early childhood to young adulthood.” Authors Christos Pliatsikas, Lotte Meteyard, João Veríssimo, Vincent Deluca, Kyle Shattuck, Michael Ullman
- “The relation of bilingualism to intelligence”. Peal, E., & Lambert, W. E. (1962). The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 76(27), 1–23.
- “Benefits and Advantages of Child Bilingualism”. Jürgen M. Meisel, Universität Hamburg , Cambridge University Press.
- “Relationship between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s.” Guillermo Albán-Gonzáleza, Teresa Ortega-Campoverde.
- “Uncovering the Mechanisms Responsible for Why Language Learning May Promote Healthy Cognitive Aging”. Mark Antoniou and Sarah M. Wright. The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Front. Psychol., 15 December 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02217