Researchers discover area of brain related to foreign language grammar proficiency

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered an area in the left side of the brain that appears to be related to foreign language acquisition, demonstrating that some people are more naturally disposed to learning foreign grammar than others, regardless of age or experience.he area, a 550-cubic-millimeter structure found in the temples called the inferior frontal gyrus, was found to be larger in those who scored higher in English grammar tests, the researchers found.

Native and acquired languages are learned in different ways, and researchers tested 95 people — 78 junior high and high school students of varying ages and English-studying experience, and 17 foreign students from non-English-speaking countries — to explore this. They discovered that those with a left inferior frontal gyrus larger than their right tended to score better results on an English grammar test. However, there appeared to be no correlation with spelling and vocabulary test scores.

It’s not known whether the structure’s size is the cause or effect of increased grammar ability, however.

Associate professor of neurolinguistics Kuniyoshi Sakai, who led the study, said: “By spending more time with those who find foreign language learning difficult, and objectively assessing individual aptitude, basic teaching methods should be improved.”

The results were published in U.S. science journal Human Brain Mapping on Monday.

(Mainichi Japan) April 29, 2009

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