- Language Mixing Updates
- Brain scans of language learners
Brain scans of language learners
Did you know?
Brain scans show where, in the brain, people keep a second language that they learned as an adult. Interestingly, they (mostly) don’t keep it in the same brain areas as their native languages.
For example, here’s a representation of two such brain scans:
(If you can’t see the image, click the ‘Read online’ link at the top of this e-mail.)
These show a specific brain area in two people. The person on the left learned both English and French as a child. They are natively bilingual. As you can see, English and French both share the same space in this area of their brain – they overlap.
The person on the right, however, is an English speaker who learned French as an adult. What do you see? A big difference! Yes, the two languages are kept physically separate in this brain area instead of overlapping as it did in the person bilingual since childhood.
The researchers got these results by looking for electrical activity when these persons spoke the two languages. Various brain areas are used when speaking, this just represents one.
This tells us that most language-learning methods do not expand your existing language to include foreign words. No, instead they create new centers for the newly acquired language.
I wonder whether this explains why people sometimes struggle to switch between languages. I’ve heard many adults who learned a second language say that they find themselves forgetting words from their native tongue. Perhaps it’s because their brains need to physically switch over to use new areas.
I also wonder whether language mixing would help our brains to use the same areas for both English and a learned language. After all, in this method, we’re trying to expand our English vocabulary to include the second language. Could this mean that the mixing method would allow our brains to look like those of people bilingual since childhood? I don’t know… perhaps?
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