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The Human Brain and Language – Use of Brainpower!

3rd March, 2015 I by Translation Excellence

The art of being able to express one’s self in more than one language is a rare and wonderful gift that often requires a lifetime of learning.

At a very young age, the human brain is exposed to a series of sounds that begin to create associations in the brain as the young child begins to understand how the jumble of sounds that we call speech begin to connect and form ideas and thoughts to physical things and concepts.

It is a widely accepted theory that young children understand language long before they are able to speak for themselves and as they develop speech patterns their speech is less than perfect for quite some time before they have a firm grasp on a language. The same theory applies to adults and/or teenagers who are attempting to learn a language, in fact, creating associations in the brain with words and phrases in a different language can prove even more difficult in older children and adults than teaching a young child its first language and in many cases, it is not because of a lack of trying on behalf of the learner.

As the human brain grows, the part of the brain that is used for learning languages becomes less apt to recognize different sounds and accents that it is not exposed to on a regular basis. This explains why older children and adults who are learning another language often times try to repeat words that they have heard in conversation, only to find that while to them, it sounded exactly the same as what they heard a native speaker say, it sounded completely different to a trained ear.

The process, both for children and adults, in learning a language can be described in terms of photography. For a young child or an adult learning another language, the associations and connections that they are able to create in their minds begin as a blurry picture with no detail, minimal color and only very few objects. As the brain learns to associate more things with different words, the picture becomes clearer and more detailed.

Language and language learning both require different parts of the brain to be performed successfully. A common side effect of someone who has had a stroke in a certain part of the brain is having to re-learn different parts of a language and work to re-create associations in the brain as they recover.

Creating associations in the brain for more than one language is often times a lifelong process when attempted after childhood, but is an extremely rewarding experience and an excellent use of brainpower!

How many languages do you speak and what was the process of learning that/those languages to you? Write your comment below.

3 responses to “The Human Brain and Language – Use of Brainpower!”

  1. Ghada Al Robaye says:

    I speak Arabic and English , Arabic as a first language , English as a strong second language . The process of learning my English language dated back when I started to study the language in my primary levels at school . Then it developed in middle and high school as I was encoding as much as vocabularies as I can , it was during the time when I realised my passion towards this beautiful expressive language , reading English stories and magazines at that time has shaped my life and has a major effect on my University career option so I decided to study English literature to quench my thirst to learn more about the language followed by a Masters’ in World literature and cultural studies. Today I am a professional translator working on my abilities to be a bilingual writer. Learning a second language has rebuild my abilities and the way I perceive the world .

  2. Tara Clayton says:

    I started learning foreign languages in Grade 6 (11 years old) when my primary school decided to add Indonesian to the curriculum. After a couple of years continuing in the same language in High School, I realised that I really loved the experience of learning and the feeling of being able to talk in another language. As a consequence, I have dabbled in French, Spanish, and some others and am now back at uni working on obtaining fluency in Japanese, hoping to bring it into my career. It makes life so much more fun!

  3. Huda Luqman Wildy says:

    Excellent article … I learnt English as a second language from an early age my ears were accustomed to both Arabic and English … reading books ,literature, poetry in both languages
    contributed to my success in switching between the 2 languages . after many years and a career in Banking and Finance I retrained and developed my language skills as an Interpreter and translator. .. as far as interpreting the correct meaning especially in legal , health and family matters it’s important to have expeteinced a deep understanding of both cultures of the languages spoken …

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