Right or Left?

Have you heard of the terms the “right brain” and the “left brain”? It has been a widely accepted notion that the right brain has a lot to do with artistic expressions and the spatial ability while the left brain controls one’s logical thinking and verbal expressions. It is also well-known that the right brain is connected to the left eye and the left hand while the left brain to the right eye and the right hand. So there are quite a few left-handed artists. That makes sense.

Now what about learning a foreign language?

Again I will show you a well accepted idea. When you are still a child, the area that involves learning language extends from left to right. So children can make the most of their right brain by enjoying singing songs or playing jazz chants. However, by the time you reach puberty (around 11~14), the right part of the area will have moved to the left. This phenomenon is called lateralization. This is the culprit that stops us adult learners from learning through sound and feelings: rather adult learners have little choice but to resort to their logical thinking –  grammar that is.

The above “lateralization” is substantiated by a car accident. When a child got hit on the left side of his head in the accident, he will not have a hard time speaking because of this phenomenon. In other words, the left side of the language area has been damaged, but the right side will move to the left to function fully. This is not the case with an adult, whose language area has already moved to the left. He will, as the worst-case scenario goes, end up having difficulty in speaking.

OK, why am I writing this boring textbook explanation of the brain? I was kind of surprised to read this article, which informs us that there may be no such difference between the right brain and the left brain! Come to think of it, the above knowledge … I learned all that more than 20 years ago. Well, since science never stops advancing, and with all the technological breakthroughs, I think that latest findings should be closer to the truth.

I personally find it interesting, because whether there is such a difference or not, it doesn’t seem to me that it affects one’s acquisition of the English language, as far as the TOEFL test is concerned. No matter where you are, no matter what brain you were born with, or no matter what learning strategies you adopt, it takes persistent effort to reach the required score of the TOEFL.

Looks like this new finding does not affect my profession.


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