(Source: Momsteam.com)

(Source: Momsteam.com)

The age at which we begin teaching English as a second language (or any second language for that matter!) to a child makes a difference. Research already indicates that children who learn how to speak a second language at a very young age are more likely to sound like a native speaker. Now, a new joint study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Oxford University shows that the brains of adults who learn more than one language at an early age look different when compared to the brains of adults who learned another language as older children.

Learning a second language is mind altering (really!)

By comparing MRI scans of bilingual and monolingual participants, the researchers found similar patterns of brain development if an adult learned one or two languages from infancy. For adults who learned a second language later in childhood, researchers found that the left inferior frontal cortex became thicker and the right inferior frontal cortex became thinner. Learning a second language later in life actually changes the brain! These areas of the brain are responsible for certain cognitive functions such as thought, language, consciousness, and memory.

“The later in childhood that the second language is acquired, the greater are the changes in the inferior frontal cortex,” said the lead author of the research study, Dr. Denise Klein, in a press release. “Our results provide structural evidence that age of acquisition is crucial in laying down the structure for language learning.”

The researchers compare acquiring a second language later in childhood to acquiring complex motor skills such as juggling. They predict that these brain changes in older ELL students might help researchers understand why learning a second language later in life can prove to be more difficult.

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicRead more about the cognitive benefits of an elementary ESL curriculum on young ELL students, and how our ESL curriculum, which uses English songs for kids, music and movement, and Total Physical Response, puts it into practice.

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