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Culture —– Effects of Language Learning on the Brain

by Brandi

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February 1st, 2010

Vocabulario de la semana – Vocabulary of the Week

Correction: from 2 weeks ago (“hánnanos” should be “hágannos”)
tema – topic (theme)
el mundo – the world
y el cerebro – and the brain
he hecho – I have done
niños – children
y – and
adultos – adults
sacados de – taken from
se puede encontrar en – it can be found at
aquí hay – here are
en el libro – in the book
del cerebro – of the brain
en otras palabras – in other words
continúa – continues
de procesos del cerebro – of brain processes
por ejemplo – for example
areas del cerebro – brain areas (areas is spelled the same in each language)
palabras – words
de – of/fr om/about
categorías de información – categories of information
reglas – rules
teorías – theories
experiencia – experience
observación – observation
menos eficaz – less effective
al día – a day
memoria – memory
veces – times
tan eficaz – so effective
estudiantes – students
nuestros cursos – our courses
que recibimos – that we receive
beneficios – benefits
educación básica – basic education
con éxito – with success (successfully)
porción verbal – verbal portion
demostró – demonstrated
matemáticas – math
en los casos de niños – in the cases of children
destreza – skill

Hola friends! For this week our blog topic is about learning a new language, or more specifically, Spanish. This tema is fascinating to me and I understand that around el mundo, there is a fascination with learning y el cerebro. He hecho some research and found some very interesting articles about how learning a new language affects el cerebro of both niños y adultos.

The following quotes are sacados de a book that is called “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School” by John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking. Se puede encontrar en: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/6160.html.

Aquí hay some conclusions that were made en el libro that I found to be very interesting:
• Learning actually changes the physical structure del cerebro. These structural changes go on to alter the functional organization del cerebro; en otras palabras, learning organizes and reorganizes el cerebro. New synapses are added that would never have existed without learning, and the wiring diagram del cerebro continúa to be reorganized throughout an individual’s life. Detailed knowledge de procesos del cerebro that underlie language has emerged in recent years. Por ejemplo, there appear to be separate areas del cerebro that specialize in subtasks such as hearing palabras (spoken language of others), seeing words (reading), speaking words (speech), and generating words (thinking with language). …classes de palabras, pictures, and other categorías de información that involve complex cognitive processing on a repeated basis activate el cerebro. Activation sets into motion the events that are encoded as part of long-term memory.
• One of the simplest reglas is that practice increases learning.
Before we read on about the rest of the research, here are a few of my own personal tips and teorías about language learning based on experiencia and observación from over the past nine years:
1. Lesson number one: don’t try to cram. Learning a new language is menos eficaz in a once-a-week cram session. Instead, study 20-30 minutes al día, three to five days per week. To put a palabra into your long-term memoria, it should be used and reworked in meaningful ways about 50 veces. That’s why our courses repeat the same palabras in so many different activities and lessons. Research shows that niños can learn new languages faster than adultos. I agree with this statement in some areas like pronunciation. That is why our company has created a complete CD that focuses on pronunciation – so adultos can tackle it and learn it well. However, it is my belief that adultos can learn some aspects of a foreign language quicker and easier than niños – por ejemplo sentence building. This is why our course focuses on this method of learning and has been tan eficaz. With our course, adults effectively learn to build sentences in Spanish from the first lesson.
2. So why else do niños seem to learn languages a little faster? …Because they learn by experiencing, by seeing and doing. Most adult language and academic learning courses teach estudiantes by having them memorize boring lists of vocabulario. Nuestros cursos teach using visual images, audio, typing and verbal repetition that help adults “experience” the Spanish language.
Here is one of the many testimonials que recibimos on a continual basis.
“I received the CD-ROM. You know I enjoyed the lessons on line and could not wait to get my CD-ROM. I received it and had to start studying that day, I wish I had found your program first. I spent about $200.00 on other Spanish tapes that was impossible to understand your program is wonderful and easy to learn. The best thing I LOVE about your program is it really teaches you every day events. All the other programs talk way too fast and talk’s about things that you would never talk about. I am going to order the complete program. It is great that I can E-mail you and there is someone there to answer any questions that I may have. THANK YOU for all your help and most of all THANK YOU for your program. I cannot tell you how much fun this program is but I think you know how great it is.”

The following are short snippets of research done by Teresa J. Kennedy, Ph.D. on the positive effects of language learning. You can find her research at: http://ivc.uidaho.edu/flbrain/default.htm

Winslow, R. (1997). How Language is Stored in Brain Depends on Age. The Wall Street Journal, July. (Summary of Distinct Cortical Areas Associated with Native and Second Languages, Nature, 388, 1997)
– Adult language learners store each new language learned in a separate area [del cerebro].

Curtain, H. (1990). Foreign Language Learning: An Early Start. ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, Center for Applied Linguistics, (Document No. EDO-FL-90-12).
– Many personal beneficios accrue [from foreign language learning], such as enhanced career potential.

Genesee, F. and N. Cloud. (1998). Multilingualism is Basic. Educational Leadership, March, 62-65.
– Genesee and Cloud argue that educación básica in the new millennium must include second and third languages if the United States is to cope with the unprecedented growth in diversity within its borders and also continue to compete con éxito in the global marketplace.

Cooper, T. C. (1987). Foreign Language Study and SAT-Verbal Scores. The Modern Language Journal, 71/4, 381-387.
– …students who take a foreign language in high school scored significantly higher on the porción verbal of the SAT than those who did not.

Armstrong, P. W. and J. D. Rogers. (1997). Basic Skills Revisited: The E ffects of Foreign Language Instruction on Reading, Math and Language Arts. Learning Languages, Spring, 20-31.
– This carefully constructed study demostró that third graders who were taught Spanish for thirty minutes, three times per week showed statistically significant gains in their Metropolitan Achievement Test scores in the areas of matemáticas and language after only one semester of study.

Garfinkel, A. and K. E. Tabor. (1991). Elementary School Foreign Languages and English Reading Achievement: A New View of the Relationship. Foreign Language Annals, 24/5, 375-382.
– [There is an] especially significant relationship between high scores in reading and extended foreign language study en los casos de niños of average intelligence.

Samuels, D. D. and R. J. Griffore (1979) . The Plattsburgh French Language Immersion Program: Its Influence on Intelligence and Self-esteem. Language Learning, 29/1, 45-52.
– The students in the immersion program performed better on test items that asked them to interpret and organize a series of seemingly unrelated objects. Study of an unfamiliar language appears to sharpen this destreza.

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