When learning a new language, it doesn't hurt to take a break, according to surprising new research published Mar. 28 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
Adult subjects who had been taught to speak and comprehend an artificial language to high proficiency and then went several months without any further exposure did not show any change in their language abilities after the time off, report the authors, led by Michael Ullman of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Kara Morgan-Short of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The time away from the language even seemed to help the subjects process the artificial language more "naturally": after the delay, the way the subjects processed the artificial language's syntax in the brain was more similar to processing a first language than it was immediately after they learned the new language.
Citation: Morgan-Short K, Finger I, Grey S, Ullman MT (2012) Second Language Processing Shows Increased Native-Like Neural Responses after Months of No Exposure. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32974. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032974
Financial Disclosure: Support for this project was provided to MTU by the National Institutes of Health under RO1 MH58189 and RO1 HD049347; to KMS by a Georgetown University Dissertation Fellowship, by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) under National Research Service Award (NRSA) F31 MH67407, and by the National Science Foundation under Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant 0446836 (formally to MTU); and to IF by Coordenac¸a˜o de Aperfeic¸oamento de Pessoal de Nı´vel Superior (CAPES) (Brazil). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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