Thanks for tuning into Test-Tube Plus today.
This is a show where we take a big topic.
We break it down into a bunch of different pieces,
so we all get it a little better.
This is episode two of five on language.
And today we’re gonna talk about
how language makes your brain bigger.
Literally, it does that.
When you have a new language in your brain,
your brain has to… essentially grow in size.
It has to make more connections.
It has to learn how to do this whole new thing.
And a Swedish Arm Forces Interpreter Academy
had a study where students were tasked
with learning a language at a very fast rate.
MRI scans were showing that
specific parts of the brain were developing in size.
They were getting bigger.
Just because they were learning a language.
Another group was tasked
with learning something else.
You know, just some… you guys learned this.
Their brain structures didn’t change in size at all.
So learning a language is really great for your brain,
for a number of different reasons.
It also significantly improves cognitive function
when you pick up a new language.
A study found that
young adults proficient in two languages
performed better on attention tests,
had better concentration as well
than those who spoke only one language.
This is a study published
in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
There was also a landmark study
in the Annals of Neurology
by the American Neurological Association.
This was a longitudinal study.
So what they did is it was over time.
They scanned kids’ brains,
and then came back decades later
and scanned their brains again.
And they found better cognitive function at an older age
when they learned a second language at an early age.
So if they learned a language when they were young,
they had better cognitive function when they were older.
It actually slowed down brain aging
and held off Alzheimer’s in these people
for more than 4.3 years or approximately that.
Cognitive functions were not hindered,
and in fact their brains were healthier as adults,
because they’ve learned a second language as a kid.
Being bilingual or trilingual or more is really awesome
学习双语 三种语言 甚至多语的确是一件
for your brain.
So what happens in your brain when you hear a word is
that the sound is arriving in sequential order.
So your brain starts to populate the rest of the word
as it hears it,
sort of like Google auto-complete, right.
You start typing and you’re getting things,
and it’s trying to figure out what you’re typing.
It’s the same thing your brain does that too.
So if I were trying to say the word “canister”,
your brain hears “can”
and your brain just now when I said that
started putting words together inside of itself.
It was like “can”, “Canada”, “cannot”, “cannery”,
比如”can” “Canada” “cannot” “cannery”
“cannabis”, “candle”, “canonical”, “canal”.
“cannabis” “candle” “canonical” “canal”
It was like I’m trying to figure this out .
Of course, that’s just English words.
When you’re bilingual,
it’s also going to include words from your second language.
And if you’re trilingual, third language.
It’s gonna try all of these different combinations.
That is a lot of processing, requires a lot of effort.
The thing is though, that would make you think like that
language was determining what you’re thinking,
which isn’t really true at all although it’s still debated.
One of our writers here came up with a quote
based on a number of other different kind of ideas,
which is culture could be shaped through the prism of language,
which we really liked. Nice one Jules.
我们都赞同这个观点 Jules 说的很贴切
According to Roman Jakobson,
a world-renowned linguist,
languages differ essentially in what they must convey,
not in what they may convey.
So language doesn’t determine what you think,
but it can determine how you think about things.
So the word “fork” in French is a feminine word.
In Spanish, it’s a masculine word.
Many Latin-based languages
have masculine and feminine words.
So the word “playa” in Spanish means “beach”.
And it is a feminine word because it ends in an “a”.
If it ends in “o”, it would be a masculine word.
So what they did in this study
is they asked people to say a word
like the word “fork” in a cartoon voice.
The participants in French made a high-pitched voice,
because that word is feminine.
In Spanish, they made a masculine grunty voice,
because that word is masculine.
It’s the same word. It’s a fork.
It’s just a thing.
But we ascribe ideas to it based on our own language.
Right. Our language determines its… it’s the prism,
in which we see the world.
It’s really an interesting way to look at it.
Another example might be some indigenous tribes will say
north, south, east and west,
rather than saying left or right.
So when we’re walking down the street,
you ask somebody where to go.
They’ll say: “Oh, go down there and turn right.”
Some people when in English,
but also some tribes
will just say: “Go down here and turn east.”
Now, depending on which way you’re facing,
east is never going to change but right will.
And its consequence the people in these tribes
have usually better spatial orientation,
cause they always understand where they’re facing.
Russian speakers who have more words
for light and dark blue
are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
And that also works in English.
Think about it this way.
Designers or people who work in fashion
or people who work in color
are better at describing color.
And some theories would suggest that they actually see
physically see, more color
than people who don’t have words for that.
If you see three different pinks in a row
and some people say: “well, that’s pink and that’s magenta and that’s fuchsia”.
有人会说 它们分别是粉色 洋红和紫红
Some people would just say pink and that’s also pink.
It’s like a different pink and that’s a different pink.
They may physically remember those things later
as just one shade of pink,
because that’s how their language has changed their perception.
English is a Germanic language,
which makes languages like Scandinavian and Dutch easier to learn.
It’s also Latin-based,
which makes French, Italian and Spanish easier to learn.
所以学法语 意大利语 西班牙语也比较容易
The thing is
there’s no origin sharing with Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Arabic,
汉语 日语 朝鲜语和阿拉伯语没有共同源头
so that makes them very difficult to learn.
The easiest language to learn when you’re an English speaker,
according to the Foreign Service Institute,
comes in various categories.
so Category One takes about 23 to 24 weeks
or about 600 hours at most,
and you can learn Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Italian,
你能学到南非荷兰语 丹麦语 荷兰语 法语和意大利语
Latin-based languages especially.
Easy, because English also based in there.
Category Two takes about 30 weeks, 750 hours.
Completely different pronunciations and things.
Lots of different words, much more complicated.
Category Three 36 weeks or about 900 hours,
you can get Indonesian, Malaysian, Swahili.
Getting more and more complicated,
less and less similar to your native language.
Again, this is for English speakers.
Category Four is 44 weeks or about 1,100 hours.
You get Thai, Albanian, Vietnamese, Russian.
你能学会泰语 阿尔巴尼亚语 越南语和俄罗斯语
Category Five is 2,200 hours,
and that’s Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean.
如阿拉伯语 普通话 粤语 日语和朝鲜语
And these are languages just like English,
except they’re not at all like English.
Some of these languages have basis in ideogram.
instead of you know vocabulary construction
in the way that English does.
And on top of that,
Mandarin has its very famously, has tones.
That is to say,
it’s got a variety of different tonal levels that you’ll have to speak in
and different tones mean different things.
There’s also something else
when you get to things like Mandarin.
We have tonal languages.
Languages where if I say “hi” versus “hi”,
those can be two very different meanings.
And this is why Chinese and similar languages are very difficult for English speakers.
We’re not used to speaking in tones.
And science does say though interestingly
that tonal language speakers have distinct advantages
when they’re learning to play
or at least understand musical instruments.
Because a plus one study looked at Cantonese speakers
who had no musical training.
They possessed pitch and tone understanding
similar to trained musicians,
as opposed to English speakers with no tone base.
We don’t understand it as easily.
So languages are good for your brain.
Think we can all agree.
Do you know any other languages?
How many do you know?
Tell us down in the comments.
Make sure you subscribe for more Test-Tube Plus.
别忘了订阅频道以收看更多Test -Tube Plus节目
Come back tomorrow.
We’re gonna talk a little bit about how language evolves
and also how they sometimes die.
If you wanna see that, make sure you subscribe.
Also, check out yesterday’s episode if you didn’t already.
This was episode two of five on language.
So hopefully you’ll come back tomorrow
and we’ll see you then.