Friday, 20 August 2010

Passive Listening to Learn Languages??

Research published last year has revealed amazingly what many have always philosophised to be true...
The ground breaking research from Victoria University in New Zealand has revealed that listening to incomprehensible input, i.e. language that sounds like gibberish to you, can ameliorate your understanding of the foreign language over time, as new sound patterns are absorbed into the depths of the brain.

'However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don't understand it, is critical,' study author Dr Paul Sulzberger said.

It seems obvious to many that our ability to learn and understand language will be improved by immersion to the sounds of the language that you are learning.

Babies, since birth are flooded by new sound patterns daily... by the time their required speech apparatus has developed they are all ready able to speak.

But can adults be language sponges akin to infants? The areas of the brain related to 2nd language acquisition the Wernicke's and Broca's area suffer from a phenomena called 'language plasticity,' where the brain's ability to adapt to new language learning for adults is stunted compared to children's because of lesser brain 'elasticity.'

Researchers from University College London have proven before that language learning "boosts brain power" Their experiment's "scans revealed the density of the grey matter in the left inferior parietal cortex of the brain was greater in bilinguals than in those without a second language."

So, the many benefits of language learning for the brain have been well-established, i.e. a reduced rate of contracting dementia earlier in life. But one mustn't forget also the many personal benefits of language learning, a new perspective can be gained on political issues (see Stu Jay Raj's recent post,) new light can be thrown on how your native language works and how you can improve your work, among others.

So, my advice to you all would be to create an environment that stimulates your language learning, and stretches those synapses. What could be easier for a Spanish learner to greatly improve their capacity, than to say, allowing Spanish TV shows or radio stations play in the background when at home, doing chores, crosswords or while relaxing. Eventually, after enough exposure, you will begin to hear breaks between the initially unceasing waves of sound, you will be able to feel a distinct rhythm and cadence, and finally you may even begin recognising words or speech patterns. One can greatly expedite their language learning through enjoyment and being in a relaxed environment... this background babble seems to fit the bill neatly.

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