home
RSS
September 23rd, 2010
08:00 AM ET

From brain to language to accent

Some people have a hard time learning a new language; others find it baffling when someone imitates a foreign accent (here's how the stars do it).

Ping Li, of Pennsylvania State University's Brain, Language, and Computation Lab, wants to know what distinguishes someone who can easily pick up a new language from someone who struggles.  Research has shown that early exposure is key to mastering a second language, but scientists have lots of unanswered questions about how the brain learns a new language or dialect.

The two parts of the brain that are critical for language and speech development are called Broca's area and Wernicke's area (here's more on those).  Broca's area is involved in speech articulation and producing sounds, while Wernicke's area deals more with comprehension of words, Li said.  Recent research has also implicated nearby brain regions that include the parts of the temporal lobe for storing and retrieving meanings, the parietal lobe for for mediating speech and motor representation, and the angular gyrus for integrating different sources - for instance, understanding idioms.

It turns out that the language you speak does change the way your brain processes language, studies have shown.

Li's research has compared the brains of native English speakers and Chinese speakers who are bilingual in English.  The Chinese language does not differentiate verbs and nouns in the same way that English does, and some interesting brain patterns result from that distinction:

In native English speakers, the Broca's area appears to handle verbs and the Wernicke's area deals with nouns.  Chinese speakers who are bilingual from an early age show the same brain behavior, Li said.  But when presented with the same nouns and verbs in Chinese, the Chinese bilinguals do not show a difference between Broca's and Wernicke's area with nouns and verbs.  What's more, Chinese bilinguals who learned English in college do not show the noun-verb distinction in the brain when presented with English, even though their language ability is not necessarily worse.

Research has demonstrated numerous advantages to learning a new language beyond mere communication. People who are bilingual are better able to carry on two tasks at once, switching back and forth between activities more seamlessly and weeding out irrelevant information better. But here's the downside:  Languages can actually compete in your mind, and you may start forgetting some vocabulary of the language you use less.

And it pays to start early.  Research suggests that true native fluency in any language can only be gained in early childhood; some studies found that sensitivity to foreign accent goes down after age 1!  It's not impossible to learn a new language late in life, but it does get more difficult: a 40-year-old will have a harder time than a 20-year-old, says Grant Goodall of the University of California, San Diego. Here are some resources for computer-based language learning.

Very little is known about picking up a new accent specifically, Li said.  We recently wrote about foreign accent syndrome, but it's unclear whether the speech changes in this condition can truly be considered a "foreign accent," Li said.

Li speculates that perhaps people who are good at accent imitation – such as Steve Martin in "The Pink Panther" – may have better-developed parts of the brain that handle speech sounds, or that those areas have better connections to other brain regions.

"We can make some speculations as to whether people like Steve Martin have better abilities to process sound systems of languages," he said.


soundoff (748 Responses)
  1. bbc podcast

    http://icons.showingtime.com/rd/RD?c=REALTORCOM&s=FMREALTY&url=www.backbonehunters.com

    June 27, 2021 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Personal Leadership Philosophy

    I love looking through an article that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

    https://seafood.media/fis/shared/redirect.asp?banner=6158&url=https://backboneleaders.comholostyak-stb-2021

    June 27, 2021 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Climate Leadership Council

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't fail me just as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I actually thought you would probably have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you can fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.

    http://wad.ojooo.com/cks_preview.php?lang=en&url=https://backboneleaders.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Best Leadership Books

    https://m.yimiaotui.com/index/index/jump?url=http://backboneleaders.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 07:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. best podcast hosting

    Itís hard to come by educated people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://sherlock.scribblelive.com/r?u=backbonehunters.com

    June 27, 2021 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Leadership Interview Questions

    http://old.nepalimmigration.gov.np/site/languages/languageA/3?url=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Leadership Experience

    When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

    http://wartank.ru/?0-1.ILinkListener-showSigninLink&channelId=30152&partnerUrl=https://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Authoritative Leadership

    https://www.nsbe.org/impakredirect.aspx?url=http://backboneleaders.com

    June 27, 2021 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. the black tapes podcast

    This is a topic which is near to my heart... Thank you! Where are your contact details though?

    https://ad.atdmt.com/c/img?h=https://backbonehunters.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Camper Repair Shop Near Me

    https://www.fahrradreisen-wanderreisen.de/redirect/Index.asp?url=https://ocrv.xyz/

    June 27, 2021 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    http://www.calculustutoring.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=oc-rv.com

    June 27, 2021 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Mecedes Sprinter Repair

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been conducting a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this topic here on your web page.

    http://sportsmenka.info/go/?https://commercialrepairshop.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Camper Repair Near Me

    http://sololadyboys.com/cgi-bin/at3/out.cgi?id=47&tag=toplist&trade=https://ocrv.me

    June 28, 2021 at 03:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Repair 2006 Dodge Sprinter

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be interesting to read through content from other writers and practice a little something from their sites.

    https://affclkr.com/track/clicks/3171/c627c2b89e0522dbfe9cbd2e8d2b8914736245cb75e9f0ab416db1046005?t=https://www.ocrvcenter.com/

    June 28, 2021 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repairs Nearby

    https://peru-retail.com/?adid=111169&url=www.ocrvcenter.com

    June 28, 2021 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repairs Nearby

    I enjoy reading through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

    http://babedrop.net/out.php?url=ocrv.mobi/

    June 28, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair San Clemente California

    Very good info. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!

    http://silbermedia.com/blog/?wptouch_switch=mobile&redirect=http://ocrvmotorsports.info

    June 28, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    Excellent site you have here.. Itís hard to find good quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

    https://www.thaihealth.or.th/in_link.php?link=https://ocrv.org

    June 28, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    http://events.owt.com/cgi-bin/clickthru?http://ocrv.rocks/

    June 28, 2021 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sprinter Repair Orange County

    https://www.nwpro.ru/go?link=https://www.ocrvshop.com

    June 29, 2021 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Camper Repair Near Me

    http://felicite.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.newrvowners.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Chevrolet High Top Van Repair Shop Near Me

    https://d.hodes.com/r/tp2?e=se&tv=pixel_tracker&aid=homedepot&p=web&se_ca=anonymous&se_ac=click&se_la=ccuid&u=https://www.www.ocrv.biz/

    June 29, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Near My Location

    Good post. I absolutely love this site. Keep it up!

    https://go.stroeermediabrands.de/go.php?t=https://ocrvmotorsports.us/

    June 29, 2021 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    http://akvaforum.no/go.cfml?id=1040&uri=https://ocrvcenter.com

    June 29, 2021 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Near Me

    http://forums.coade.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=changeprefs&what=style&value=2&curl=https://www.ocrvcenter.biz

    June 29, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.webgames.cz/redirect.php?url=http://ocrvcenter.biz/

    June 29, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

    http://www.boleh.click/track/link?to=http://ocrvmotorsports.info/

    June 29, 2021 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Delta 8

    Hey, thanks for the post.Really thank you! Awesome.

    https://www.kitsapdailynews.com/marketplace/best-thc-gummies-top-3-marijuana-edibles-on-the-rise-in-2021/

    June 29, 2021 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Nearest RV Repair

    http://www.wallpaperlink.com/cgi-bin/rank/out.cgi?id=DECOO&url=https://ocrvcenter.biz/

    June 29, 2021 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    http://www.worldlingo.com/S4698.0/translation?wl_url=https://ocrvcenter.net/

    June 30, 2021 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Nearest RV Repair

    https://queverdeasturias.com/out.html?url=https://ocrv.fun

    June 30, 2021 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    This is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise infoÖ Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!

    http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvshop.com

    June 30, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sprinter Van Dent Repair Shop

    I love it whenever people come together and share views. Great site, keep it up!

    https://d-click.sindilat.com.br/u/6186/643/710/1050_0/4bbcb/?url=https://fleetautorepairshop.com

    June 30, 2021 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. ixiladaxe

    http://slkjfdf.net/ – Uyujpet Osafaza hkb.vgkj.thechart.blogs.cnn.com.cjg.vr http://slkjfdf.net/

    June 30, 2021 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    This site really has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.

    http://disaster-medicine.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.life

    June 30, 2021 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Repair

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thank you for providing this information.

    http://www.sa-live.com/merror.html?errortype=1&url=https://www.ocrv.info

    June 30, 2021 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Web Marketing Companies

    Excellent post. I'm going through many of these issues as well..

    http://rufolder.ru/redirect/?url=http://rankemailads.com

    June 30, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.