About children, brain, learning and languages
Many years ago I read a scientific report of a study of multi-lingual stroke victims. The study found a very peculiar phenomenon. A portion of the stoke victims had learned multiple languages (2 or more) from birth, while another portion had acquired their polyglot skills later in life. When the people who had learned multiple,languages from birth had major strokes, they would often loose one of their languages completely, while their abilities in the other languages remained unimpaired. When the people who learned languages later in life had a major stroke, they would suffer impairment, but not total loss in all their languages. The conclusion of the study was that the organization of language in the brains of the two groups was quite different. Children who learned multiple languages from birth seemed to partition up their brains, using different parts for different languages, while people who added languages later spread their languages throughout their brains.
At the time, I took this as being proof that very young children learn languages in a different way from older people. I have seen several studies since that tend to support this conclusion. For example, I have read that past the age of eight, it is very difficult or impossible to be truly native in a foreign language, and your ability to learn a language from a different language group from your own (say Chinese if you are a native English speaker) diminishes rapidly after the age of 3. There are some languages that are so difficult that they have never been successfully learned as a foreign language and are only spoken by native speakers who started at birth.
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