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How does your brain change after you learn a new language?


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I sucked at learning languages but I really want to learn conversational French. Learning a new language has always been cited as something that can change your brain  and based on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, your native language influences your thoughts. I think this is correct as I listened to a song in Spanish with English translations, and it really didn't make sense to me. Yet it rhymes and sounds good in Spanish

 

Anyway, lets say I become fluent in French. What would change in my brain, if an EEG was done on my brain before I start studying and again after I master it, if anything.

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The process of learning something has the same effect on the brain as exercising our muscles. If we practice exercise regularly, they will increase in size and become stronger. The same thing happens to the brain. By making it work, we change its structure while improving certain functions. Let's talk about the specific processes that occur in our brain when we learn new languages.  The first time I heard words in dutch.  I decided to study this language and this country in general https://www.amazon.com/Dutch-Frequency-Dictionary-Vocabulary-Dutch-English/dp/9492637340 . I think it's fascinating and beautiful.

Edited by jodisteel
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I learned English in 6 months ( in 1968/9 ).
I studied French for 6 years ( Gr 7-Gr12 ) and I still can't carry on a conversation, although I can read it and understand it if spoken slowly enough.
I suppose the difference is that I needed to use English every day; French, not so much.

Incidentally I still do basic math functions ( +, -, *, / ) in my head, using my native Italian.
( so I guess learning new languages really messed up my brain )

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2 hours ago, MigL said:

I studied French for 6 years ( Gr 7-Gr12 ) and I still can't carry on a conversation, although I can read it and understand it if spoken slowly enough.

Funny, I’ve had a similar experience. I’m generally good with languages (fluent in 2, varying levels in another 7, several more on my ‘to learn’ list), but French really didn’t do it for me, even after five years of formal study in High School.

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I used to be good at languages.I  learned a bit of Spanish just out of interest and was at a pretty basic level.

Then I went to Portugal and worked there for a few summer months,also learning the language to a small degree.

 

When that finished I came back through Spain ,taking about a week to hitch hike through the country.

 

I noticed that the Portuguese I had learned had screwed up the Spanish I had previously  had (they are pretty similar languages)

 

I imagine that might be a common experience  with closely related languages for some people.

Edit: we have just started a "talking only Latin" thread over on another science forum as a way to perhaps learn or relearn that language.

 

 

Edited by geordief
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Bilingual but my ear can't keep up well in French conversation.  Reading and speaking is no problem.   I love Italian.   Loved hearing it spoken when I was in Italy (and a predominantly Italian neighborhood in New England where I lived for three years) and hearing it sung.  Italian also my favorite cuisine,  so if there is such a thing as reincarnation I would be molto felice to be reborn in Italy. 

I suspect one cognitive advantage of bilingualism is that each language encodes certain ways of thinking, so your overall thinking is more versatile and better able to handle shifts of perspective.  

A propos of Geordief comment on too closely similar languages, I pick up some Spanish where I live,  which I can see adversely affecting future Italian acquisition.  

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