Category Archives: erik-languages

Neuroplasticity and Motivation

There is agreement (I believe) that there is a critical period for vision and language development. I think this is better understood/agreed upon after the Genie tragedy as well as vision researchers.

But what about second-language learning? From what I am reading, if one grows up with multiple languages, bi-lingual language learners store the language map in a shared sort of way whereas those of us who learn later process things differently. They (brain researchers) must know this because of MRIs. But what is the age cut-off? Is there one? I have friends who have not learned English until they were 11 or 12 and they are fluent in every sense of the word and have no accent. I also have relatives who have not learned English until their 20s and they have accents but again, are totally fluent. And students from Europe in the US for the first time for grad school. Speaking perfect, and I mean perfect English, having never set foot in an English speaking country. (Classes, and movies and such, but never actually lived in an English speaking place). Certainly there is no lack of evidence of such stories — the US has plenty of immigrants after all — So what gives! Oh, and my spouse and I are a good example. My spouse far surpassed my Spanish (6 years in school) in a matter of months during our 1/2 year in Chile — she loves languages! I remembered some words she didn’t know yet, but she could speak with other people much more successfully I think.

WHY? MOTIVATION!

For example, here is a paper about L2 (second language) learning in a French Immersion program in Canada LINK

“Many have not chosen to be in the program, but have been arbitrarily placed in French Immersion by their parents to improve their son or daughter’s understanding of French. What transpires in many intermediate French Immersion classrooms is a lack of commitment on the part of the students to actively speak French both with the teacher and with their peers during structured and non-structured time.”

It’s a no-brainer. forced-students. Versus in all of the examples I gave above… the L2 learners are HIGHLY PERSONALLY MOTIVATED by wanting to get a job, understand parents or kids on the playground, or a person they are dating who speaks a different first language, or wanting to understand years of popular Hollywood movies, etc.

Enough said I think! Age probably doesn’t matter TOO much in comparison.

See also:
- Tim Ferriss “How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months” (Erik: If you are motivated! :-)
- John Holt: Never Too Late — “At the age of forty, with no particular musical background, he took up the cello”
- Weight lifting at any age (pubmed study)
- Eat to Live (reverse various diseases at any age)
- But You’re to Old to do a Startup

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