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Second Language Acquisition: The Adult Brain Versus The Child Brain Elaine M. Smith - Research Paper Example

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Second Language Acquisition: The Adult Brain Versus The Child Brain Elaine M. Smith Abstract A major phenomenon that separates humans from all other animals on the planet is the ability to communicate using spoken language. People who are proficient in two languages are categorized as being bilingual…
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Second Language Acquisition: The Adult Brain Versus The Child Brain Elaine M. Smith
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Download file to see previous pages Their studies and experiments show that there is in fact a critical period of brain development in which it is optimal to begin learning a second language. This critical period is based on the plasticity and continuing myelination of a prepubescent child. Neuroscience experiments and studies have also demonstrated that learning a second language at an early age does not hinder proficiency and development of the primary language nor are bilingual children less proficient in the primary language as monolingual children. In fact the exact opposite appears to be true. Furthermore, learning a second language appears to be associated with positive benefits for the brain. In order to capitalize on these positive benefits and achieve high proficiency and fluency, second language acquisition should begin as early in life as possible. The Human Brain and Language The human brain differs from that of other species in that the human brain has regions dedicated to language comprehension and production alone. For the majority of people, these regions are located in the left hemisphere. However, in about 20 percent of left-handed individuals, these language regions are located in the right hemisphere. This localization of language ability to predominately one hemisphere of the brain is referred to as lateralization. Often times, language function shifts to the right hemisphere when an injury occurs to the left hemisphere early in life during childhood (Moddel, Lineweaver, Schuele, Reinholz, & Loddenkemper, 2009). The Language Areas of the Brain Language processing occurs mainly in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. In general terms, words are comprehended by Wernicke’s area and articulated by Broca’s area. Broca’s area is located in the frontal lobe. The back region moves the mouth to form words, while the front part is hypothesized to be related with aspects of word meaning. Wernicke’s area is located in the upper temporal lobe adjacent to the occipital and parietal cortices. In this area, heard and seen words are understood and selected for articulation. A thick band of tissue known as the arcuate fasciculus connects Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. An area known as Geschwind’s territory surrounds Wernicke’s area. This territory is located in the lower part of the parietal lobe. Here information from sound, sight, and body sensation come together. When a person hears words spoken, Wernicke’s area matches the sounds to their meaning, and special neurons in Geschwind’s territory assist by combining the different properties of words to provide comprehension. When a person speaks, the process happens in reverse. Wernicke’s area finds the correct words to match the thought that is to be expressed. The chosen words then pass to Broca’s area via the arcuate fasciculus. Broca’s area then turns the words into sounds by moving the tongue, mouth and jaw into the required position and by activating the larynx. Aphasias Identification of these language areas resulted from studying patients who suffered brain injuries in these general areas and as a result of their injuries, presented deficient language comprehension and production symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries and strokes can lead to aphasia, which is the loss of the ability to produce and/or comprehend language. Aphasia is usually associated with a brain injury such as a stroke, which affects the brain’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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