STUDY: BRAIN CAN HANDLE SECOND LANGUAGE SEPARATELY FROM NATIVE TONGUE

Paolo Gambi, Rinascimento poetico

STUDY: BRAIN CAN HANDLE SECOND LANGUAGE SEPARATELY FROM NATIVE TONGUE

NEW YORK (AP) _ WHEN PEOPLE THINK IN A LANGUAGE THEY LEARNED IN ADULTHOOD, THEY EMPLOY SPECIAL BRAIN CIRCUITS NOT USED FOR THEIR NATIVE TONGUE, A STUDY SUGGESTS.
BUT IF ADULTS STARTED LEARNING TWO LANGUAGES IN INFANCY, THEY USE THE SAME CIRCUITS FOR BOTH, RESEARCHERS FOUND.
THE DIFFERENCE APPEARED IN A CRITICAL LANGUAGE CENTER CALLED BROCA’S AREA, WHICH LIES NEAR THE LEFT EAR IN RIGHT-HANDED PEOPLE.
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE STUDY EXPLAINS WHY KIDS LEARN A SECOND LANGUAGE MORE EASILY THAN ADULTS DO, CAUTIONED SENIOR AUTHOR JOY HIRSCH OF THE MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER IN NEW YORK.
THE WORK APPEARS IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL NATURE.
IT INCLUDED SIX PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN EXPOSED TO TWO LANGUAGES IN INFANCY AND SIX WHO PICKED UP A SECOND LANGUAGE AS ADULTS. THEIR BRAINS WERE SCANNED AS THEY SILENTLY TOLD THEMSELVES WHAT THEY’D DONE THE PREVIOUS DAY, THINKING FIRST IN ONE LANGUAGE AND THEN THE OTHER.
THE FINDING FITS WITH PRIOR REPORTS THAT IN BILINGUAL PEOPLE, STROKES OR BRAIN TUMORS CAN HINDER ABILITY IN JUST ONE LANGUAGE, HIRSCH SAID.
ARTURO HERNANDEZ, WHO STUDIES BILINGUAL PEOPLE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA, SAID IT’S NOT CLEAR WHAT IT MEANS TO SHOW THAT TWO LANGUAGES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH DIFFERENT BRAIN CIRCUITS.
IT COULD MEAN THE BRAIN STORES EACH LANGUAGE IN A DIFFERENT PLACE, OR THAT IT GETS ACCESS TO EACH LANGUAGE THROUGH A DIFFERENT CIRCUIT, OR SIMPLY THAT IT WORKS HARDER TO USE THE LANGUAGE LEARNED IN ADULTHOOD, HE SAID.
11 JUL 97

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