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How Immersion Helps to Learn a Language

April 4, 2012

By SINDYA N. BHANOO

Published: April 2, 2012

Learning a foreign language is never easy, but contrary to common wisdom, it is possible for adults to process a language the same way a native speaker does. And over time, the processing improves even when the skill goes unused, researchers are reporting.

Chris Gash

For their study, in the journal PloS One, the scientists used an artificial language of 13 words, completely different from English. “It’s totally impractical to follow someone to high proficiency because it takes years and years,” said the lead author, Michael Ullman, a neuroscientist at Georgetown University Medical Center.

The language dealt with pieces and moves in a computer game, and the researchers tested proficiency by asking test subjects to play the game.

The subjects were split into two groups. One group studied the language in a formal classroom setting, while the other was trained through immersion.

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