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HHS HealthBeat (August 25, 2014)

Say what?

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Living where you have to figure out a foreign language – learning by immersion – can be hard. But one study of how the brain works in learning language indicates it can go more easily if you don’t overthink things.

At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Amy Finn had adults figure out an artificial language.  People who were instructed not to overthink what they were learning did better when they had new grammar to figure out.

So, if you’re learning language by living it:

“For that type of learning situation, the advice would be to not try to figure things out right away, while you’re listening.”

But she says do try in a classroom, where there’s structure, and you can learn rules and try to apply them.

The study in the journal PLOS One was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: August 25, 2014