Saturday, August 2, 2014

Turned off by pronunciation teaching and learning? Good plan!

Clip art:
Have for years, often in jest, pointed an accusing finger at the pre-frontal cortex as at least contributing to the difficulty that adults often have in learning pronunciation. A new study by Trafton of MIT (summarized by looking at the roles of procedural versus declarative brain networks and structures in learning language makes a striking point evident in the title of the article: "Try, try again? Study says no: Trying harder makes it more difficult to learn some aspects of language, neuroscientists find."

The bottom line: Declarative, more conscious networks work well (especially in adults) at learning vocabulary and understanding what is to be learned. Procedural networks are responsible for less conscious, more automatic (physiological) processes--such as many aspects of pronunciation, of course. According to Trafton (and many others) the answer is often to avoid "trying harder" by over use of declarative functions. How might that be done? According to Science Daily, again:

" . . . she is now testing the effects of "turning off" the adult prefrontal cortex using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation. Other interventions she plans to study include distracting the prefrontal cortex by forcing it to perform other tasks while language is heard, and treating subjects with drugs that impair activity in that brain region."

Got to get me a TMS machine . . .

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