Kids, Language & Brains


Reality Check

Learn Foreign Languages Incredibly Fast!   We've all seen the ads for programs that claim to produce second language skills in no time at all.  The appeal is powerful, but uncommon common sense tells a different story.  Usually aimed at adults whose time is limited yet who want to learn a 2nd language, the ads play fast and loose with exactly what learning a second language demands, what learning any skill well requires: time and effortWorking with children, we count on their natural ability to imitate accurately and absorb new sounds and vocabulary almost effortlessly.  They do learn incredibly fast, but they forget fast too. Repetition and other forms of reinforcement are tools teachers use to help make second language stick.  Any practice at home with parents and siblings is good, even the dreaded performance solicitation:  say something in  fill in the 2nd language of choice. Kids may resist but they still recognize parents approve and support their efforts.  Everyone, especially adult learners, needs to remember that learning a 2nd language is a challenge that gives a good return over time.


Want to be a FL Entrepreneur?

Anyone with 2nd language skills of native or near-native quality who has always dreamed of teaching might want to consider establishing a business where the love of the culture, language and teaching can be a happy mix.  At Language we specialize in working with children because of their ease at acquiring new languages.  Their enthusiasm and natural abilities makes teaching them lots of fun and choosing this option can lead  you to a new career field or a secondary job, a great way to turn what you love doing into a rewarding way of life.  Check out our website to see if there's something here for you!


Kids and Learning

What if early intervention could reduce or even eliminate language-learning disabilities so children could be enabled to read and write like their more typically developed peers? According to researchers at the University of Washington this is a realistic endeavor.   Working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers, teams there have found ways to make real differences.  One of their insights which is old news:  face time between an adult and infant and then child working together, talking, reading, etc., helps form and reinforce the neural connections that make learning easier and  more rewarding.  As one 2nd grader, a natural in math, a good student, and  yet a deeply frustrated reader said after working with her team, "reading is magic."  UW Research on Brain Activity Delivers Lessons on How Kids Learn, Brain in the News, Vol. 21 No. 10, Nov 2014.



Networking: Brains Excel at It.

And brains that really excel at networking are those of simultaneous interpreters, real-time translators.  Language learning has long been a key interest area for neuroscientists,  but understanding how the brain can do simultaneous interpretation has been a challenge scientists were slower to take on.  Now researchers have focused in on the caudate nucleus and the putamen, areas of the brain known for their roles in such complex tasks as learning and the planning and execution of movement.  Out of this comes one of the biggest ideas in neuroscience in that past several decades:  Many of our most sophisticated abilities are made possible not by specialist brain areas dedicated to specific tasks, but by lightning-fast coordination between areas that control general tasks, such as movement and hearing. Among the feats seemingly made possible by our networking brains:  simultaneous interpretation.  For the full article, see In Other Words:  Inside the Lives and Minds of Real-Time Translators, Brain in the News, Vol 21.No 11, December 2014.


Age and Decline? Our Brains Aren’t So Predictable

Cognitive neuroscience uses measures of brain activity to understand human thought.  The newer and far more optimistic view is that despite aging, brains retain malleability and plasticity and can thus continue to reorganize and change for the better.  Having discovered that neurons generate throughout life, neurogenesis looks at evidence that refocused learning and enriched, stimulating environments increase the survival of these newly created neurons, thus improving abilities and benefiting overall health.  Social and emotional abilities seem to age particularly well, suggesting they may be able to be harnessed to develop effective memory strategies.   Essentially, our brains remain dynamic.  Further research may well increase understanding of how brain plasticity can be used to our cognitive advantage.  "Aging Brains Aren't Necessarily Declining Brains," Brain in the News, Vol 21. No 11, December 2014