Languages and Our First Years of Life

June 28, 2015

 

The brain continues to answer to the sound of a #language listened and learned during early #childhood, according to a research that highlights the importance of the first years of life.

 

A child's #brain exposed at a very young age to a language builds representations of the sounds, but it was unknown until now if there was a long-lasting memory of them even when the child is no longer exposed to that language, explain the researchers.

 

To answer this question, the researchers studied 48 girls aged from 9 to 17 years old that were exposed during their lifetime to different levels of #French and #Chinese, by dividing them between three groups:

 

The first group had girls born and educated among French-speaking families; the second group had girls born in China and adopted before they were 3 years old by French-speaking families; and the third group had girls fluent in Chinese and French. The three groups listened to records with tones typical of the Chinese language but non-existent in French, while a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was conducted.

 

The MRI revealed that all the girls previously exposed to Chinese - whether they continued to speak the language or not - had the same part of the brain active; the girls exposed only to French didn't have it.

 

"Mental representations built in the brain while learning a language at a very young age do persist into #adulthood, even when one loses the ability to speak it", concluded the researchers.

 

#Children begin life with the ability to distinguish the sounds of every language in the world, but as they are exposed to just one language they become more sensitive to the sounds and tones of that particular language. Phonological categories built during that period reinforce the learning of the Mother Tongue and are the foundations for superior levels of language #knowledge.

 

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