Learning languages is the pending issue of many people. Who else or who less, knows two types of people: those who learn languages very easily and those who have the same life costs. We also found another group for those who learn a language is not easy, but not too expensive; They can learn one or two languages. Some people lament their poor ability to learn a new language. The question is whether it really exists with more or less talent for languages.
Throughout the article we will address some of the main causes that influence the learning of a new language. Are we all equally prepared? Are there more or less skilled people? Definitely, Two aspects are key: the brain and motivation. Both topics will be discussed below.
- 1 Learn languages: the brain
- 2 Cultural influence at the brain level
- 3 Learn languages: attitude and motivation
Learn languages: the brain
An important aspect when learning new languages is the brain. It is well known that the brain has great plasticity, so this ability will be essential for learning a new language. When we are young, the brain has an even greater plasticity to learn. That is why if we teach children two or three languages, even more, they will learn them naturally and effortlessly. However, the same does not happen when we already have a more established brain structure with respect to a learned language. The brain becomes somewhat stiffer and learning is more expensive.
As the biochemist and molecular biologist Natalia López-Moratalla states: "The brain is making connections, scaffolding, and those connections are made very differently when we learn a language different from the mother tongue as a child from when we learn a language at an advanced age". According to the expert, procedural and perceptual memory take on special importance. Procedural memory would be involved in the processing of syntax and perceptual memory in word learning.
On the other hand, a 2006 investigation led by Narly Golestani published in "Cerebral Cortex" sheds light on this issue. They discovered that "the brains of those who have a special gift to recognize and distinguish sounds from a language other than their own It is less symmetrical than usual and has more white matter than the brains of people with a discreet facility to learn new languages". This study highlights that people who enjoy this particularity will have more facility to structure and connect a new language.
The images they obtained through magnetic resonance showed that subjects able to learn faster had more white matter in the Heschl area of the right hemisphere. The Heschl area is a part of the cerebral cortex related to hearing. Thus, having a greater amount of white matter, the ability to process sounds will be better.
Cultural influence at the brain level
As López-Moratalla remarks, "The important thing about a language is the syntax and the way the phrase is constructed, and that says a lot about the culture". In this way, as the mother tongue is installed in our brain and creates stronger and stronger connections, we hinder the ability to create others. It is therefore, that in the future, when we want to learn a new language, we have to face the basic cultural variety. The subject, verb and predicate is universal, but then there are many variations when it comes to constructing sentences and expressing oneself.
The mother tongue creates, little by little, a "wiring" at the brain level through which it is not difficult for us to learn our first language. The most complicated thing is to learn a new language on this established basis. Nevertheless, However difficult it is, it is not impossible. It will simply take more time and effort.. That is why it is so important to learn to think in the language we are learning. If we try to speak the new language with the same syntax as ours, the success will not be too high. Each language has its structure and idiosyncrasy, which is why it is so important to think about the new language. This is, we must develop a new "wiring" for the new language.
Learn languages: attitude and motivation
If there is a reason why we have more facility to learn languages that is, without a doubt, the motivation. When we went to school and had to study English without feeling like it, it was very tedious. Learning English or any other language without any motivation can become an impossible mission. Nevertheless, If our attitude is positive and willing to learn again, the language we choose will penetrate our mind much more smoothly..
Golestani, N., Molko, N., Dehaene, S., LeBihan, D. and Pallier, C. (2006). Brain structure predicts the learning of foreing speech sounds. Cerebral Cortex, 17 (3), 575-582.