Third Language Center Found in the Brain

Third Language Area in Brain Identified - Yahoo News, Mon Dec 13[quote]“Geschwind’s territory is the last area in the brain to mature, the completion of its maturation coinciding with the development of reading and writing skills. An important future line of study will be to examine the maturation of this area and its connections in the context of autism and dyslexia,” Catani said.[/quote]

Using a new method of brain scanning that is more powerful than an MRI, British scientists discovered a third “territory” to go along with the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. They have named this third part the Geschwind’s territory. It seems like this is a big discovery that should give us more insight into how people learn languages and how we can teach English.

I have a large part of the brain devoted to forgetting my PIN numbers, keys, phone, children’s names, wife’s name, my age, nationality, work tasks and youth.

That whole area is fascinating: the idea that, regarding the subtler functions of the brain, one day we may go beyond Mendel/Darwin-type (sorry for the weird analogy) indirect observation and just directly observe what goes on.

I remember reading a news article a while back that said that someone had used MRI, or something similar, to see whether any brain activity was specifically associated with the use of different grammatical
changes (!). I don’t remember what the precise functions were, but I’ll use imaginary examples: it was something along the lines of forming plural and forming past tense.

According to the article, brain activity was detected in different areas for different functions.

Then again, that’s according to the article. . . . :s

[quote=“xp+10K”]I don’t remember what the precise functions were, but I’ll use imaginary examples: it was something along the lines of forming plural and forming past tense.

According to the article, brain activity was detected in different areas for different functions.

Then again, that’s according to the article. . . . :s[/quote]

Any way they could develop the research to make English learners use that part of the brain? I’m frustrated by all the “My home have 3 turtle” and “I don’t have say that” that I hear every day.

It’s possible humans will reach Alpha Centauri before that happens. :laughing:

You’ve probably already seen these, but to me, they’re still good for a laugh:


[quote]Child: Nobody don’t like me.
Parent: No, say “Nobody likes me”
Child: Nobody don’t like me.
[This exchange is repeated eight times.]
Parent: No, now listen carefully; say “Nobody likes me.”
Child: Oh! Nobody don’t likes me.[/quote]


[quote]Child: Want the other one spoon, Daddy.
Parent: You mean, you want the other spoon.
Child: Yes, I want other one spoon, please Daddy.
Parent: Can you say “the other spoon”?
Child: Other … one … spoon.
Parent: Say “other”.
Child: Other
Parent: “Spoon”.
Child: Spoon
Parent: “Other spoon.”
Child: Other … spoon. Now give me other one spoon?[/quote]
or click google cache here

And my favorite, #3

[quote]Adult: Now Adam, listen to what I say. Tell me which is better

And my favorite, #3

[quote]Adult: Now Adam, listen to what I say. Tell me which is better

I think an immersion class can resemble a native language environment. Of course, there’s no reason why other classes can’t. I think one big problem with most non-immersion classes (and maybe a lot of immersion classes) is that there’s not enough time-per-student and opportunity to devote to meaningful exchange between the teacher and the student and/or the student and the student.

I’m not sure how to go about that sort of thing. If I were to stay in this field, I think I’d have a lot of reading to do.

twocs, ImaniOU, did you check out the link below the yahoo news article? It’s to an article on the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Pretty wild stuff. I wonder if it’s too late for me (51 y/o and already got big student-loan debt) to go back and study neuropsychology or something related.

The yahoo article says the new center may be related to language acquisition in children. I wonder specifically how they think it’s related.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether I could get any good teaching ideas by reading stuff on teaching the deaf, or people with communication disorders, autism, etc. (No degrading humor intended.)

P.S. I could see somebody posting that my quotes were inapposite, since ImaniOU’s quotes, I think, were examples of interference from Chinese. But what I think is similar is the difficulty in correcting it. And there may be some other similarity/ies. Mysterious things, language and the brain.

I used to correct it by saying, “Wow, you have three turtles at home? I only have one cat at home. What else do you have at home?” Sometimes they would pick up the correction and automatically model the correct language, sometimes they would make adjustments that would be more correct. Sometimes I would have to give more examples to get the desired syntax, but I always did it masked as clarifying for more information rather than simply telling them the correct syntax.

But I was told that because I was not outwardly correcting their English, I was not teaching them how to say it the right way. So I began correcting them. “No, it’s 'I have three turtles at home.” Surprisingly, they don’t say “I have three turtle at home” nearly as often…
As a matter of fact, they are speaking less frequently.

Kind of like the sample with “Nobody don’t like me.” Instead of asking about the content, I have been asked to instead focus on correcting the grammar and totally missed a chance to communicate. Putting more emphasis on accuracy than on fluency.

Anyway, I have a hypothesis that the brain can only hold so much language in it and when it reaches its limit, then new words begin replacing old ones. I think this is why someone who is multilingual may be able to speak each language fluently, but will not be able to speak any one language at the same level as someone who is monolingual in one of those languages. I also think that this area develops the most during the early part of life which is why it becomes very hard for people who don’t have a lot of education to be able to pick up a new language…they haven’t had their language areas stretched out enough to make room for new words and grammar rules. It kind of piggy-backs off Chomsky’s language acquisition device (a term and theory which I really don’t care for) but gives some explanation for why bilingual children are not really exceptional in either language they speak and why words fade and mix as we learn new languages.
When I begin grad school in applied linguistics, I may use this as the subject of my thesis/dissertation.

It’s also interesting to see how this could apply to hearing and speech deficient children. I wish I had time to have at least minored in hearing and speech sciences. What little I had time to be exposed to was fascinating and it ties into my linguistics studies although I am more interested in psycholinguistics than neurolinguistics.

There’s some research cited by Steven Krashen that shows you are correct to say that the brain can only learn so many grammar rules. The grammar teaching you do improves that area of grammar performance for a few weeks and then the improvement disappears. So what is it that many bosses and researchers blindly suggest (to somehow overcome this limitation)? More grammar teaching. Despite the fact that the grammar rules are going to go out of their heads.

I don’t know where you got the concept that some people’s language ability is better than other’s. Multilingual or Monolingual? The Chinese people in Taiwan who know English are able to organize their Chinese writing better than the ones who don’t. If you learn French, you have a better grasp on the English words borrowed from French. If you’re talking about the kids who start learning English (through grammar teaching) before they are fluent in Chinese, then perhaps you are right, but grammar teaching to kids has been shown again and again to be the hard way, the style of language teaching that is like swimming in a cold mountain stream.

If someone has never had grammar lessons, they will find it hard to learn by the grammar method we use. If they are teenagers (past the age that the third area of the brain has matured) and they are going to have grammar lessons in school, then it’s of benefit to them to become better at the grammar method than their peers.

The grammar method is derived from the way Latin was taught. Sure, we have spiced it up with pictures and sentence patterns for communication. There are some hard concepts that we can convey with grammar rules, like “i before e except after c”. You can try having them memorize grammar rules, but the value of one rule is questionable. A fluent speaker does not need to know the rule. Knowing the rule does not imply you will be able to correctly use the rule.

But if you go to Webster’s on grammar you’ll see the absurdity of teaching grammar rules. You try to convey the ideas below to a student. In two or three weeks after they learnt the rules below, they have forgotten most of them. The grammar rules didn’t help them choose when to use “and” or “but”. They should have just naturally picked up the concept of when to use “and”. But now they might be asked to use it on the final exam and the research shows that they won’t have long term improvement unless they learned “and” as part of sentences they understood and were in context of some bigger picture.


  1. To suggest that one idea is chronologically sequential to another: “Tashonda sent in her applications and waited by the phone for a response.”
  2. To suggest that one idea is the result of another: “Willie heard the weather report and promptly boarded up his house.”
  3. To suggest that one idea is in contrast to another (frequently replaced by but in this usage): "Juanita is brilliant and Shalimar has a pleasant personality.
  4. To suggest an element of surprise (sometimes replaced by yet in this usage): “Hartford is a rich city and suffers from many symptoms of urban blight.”
  5. To suggest that one clause is dependent upon another, conditionally (usually the first clause is an imperative): “Use your credit cards frequently and you’ll soon find yourself deep in debt.” top
  6. To suggest a kind of “comment” on the first clause: "Charlie became addicted to gambling

I wonder if the “you can only acquire so much grammar” idea holds true for “rules” in the linguistic sense, i.e., rules that are acquired by some kind of mysterious inference-drawing mechanism (LAD, or whatever name you want to give it). I mean the inner mechanism of the “Wug” test: In the 1950s, a group of small children was shown a picture of a funny-looking cartoon critter and told, “This is a Wug.” Then, when shown a picture of several of the same critters, and prompted by “These
are. . . ,” the kids answered “Wugs.” They put the plural suffix/phoneme “s” on the end of “Wug.” This is the same mechanism at work in kid overgeneralizations such as “foots.”

For about seven months, I taught pre-school kids most of whom had already been more or less “immersed” for quite some time (all day, native speaker, English-only rule, etc.), and there seemed, to me, to be substantial interference from Mandarin. So maybe the “you can only acquire so much grammar” idea would apply to that situation.

About explicitly-taught grammar rules: I’ve never read any books by Krashen, but I thought he took a dim view of the effectiveness of such teaching, at least with kids. Am I mistaken on that one?