June 1, 2013

Picking Up a Second Language Is Predicted by Ability to Learn Patterns

From http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/picking-up-a-second-language-is-predicted-by-the-ability-to-learn-statistical-patterns.html

Picking Up a Second Language Is Predicted by Ability to Learn Patterns
May 28, 2013

Some people seem to pick up a second language with relative ease, while others have a much more difficult time. Now, a new study suggests that learning to understand and read a second language may be driven, at least in part, by our ability to pick up on statistical regularities.

The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Some research suggests that learning a second language draws on capacities that are language-specific, while other research suggests that it reflects a more general capacity for learning patterns. According to psychological scientist and lead researcher Ram Frost of Hebrew University, the data from the new study clearly point to the latter:

“These new results suggest that learning a second language is determined to a large extent by an individual ability that is not at all linguistic,” says Frost.

In the study, Frost and colleagues used three different tasks to measure how well American students in an overseas program picked up on the structure of words and sounds in Hebrew. The students were tested once in the first semester and again in the second semester.

The data revealed a strong association between statistical learning and language learning: Students who were high performers on the shapes task tended to pick up the most Hebrew over the two semesters.

Read the full press release and access the study at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/picking-up-a-second-language-is-predicted-by-the-ability-to-learn-statistical-patterns.html

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