Science Grows on Acquiring New Language
Recent studies on how language learning occurs are beginning to chip away at some long-held notions about second-language acquisition and point to potential learning benefits for students who speak more than one language.
“We have this national psyche that we’re not good at languages,” said Marty Abbott, the director of education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in Alexandria, Va. “It’s still perceived as something only smart people can do, and it’s not true; we all learned our first language and we can learn a second one.”
New National Science Foundation-funded collaborations among educators, cognitive and neuroscientists, psychologists, and linguists have started to find the evidence to back that assertion up. For example, researchers long thought the window for learning a new language shrinks rapidly after age 7 and closes almost entirely after puberty. Yet interdisciplinary research conducted over the past five years at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, and other colleges suggest that the time frame may be more flexible than first thought and that students who learn additional languages become more adaptable in other...
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