Learning with the heardrum

Foreign words often don’t have a representative image in our brains.


“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language” – that’s Paul Sulzburger’s main argument . The PhD graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, taught Russian for several years to Kiwi students and watched them consistently drop out. What makes it so hard to learn words in foreign languages when we learn new ones in our own language every day? Sulzbeger wondered. His answer is: “When we are trying to learn new foreign words we are faced with sounds for which we may have absolutely no neural representation. A student trying to learn a foreign language may have few pre-existing neural structures to build on in order to remember the words.”
The Victoria University press office speaks of Sulzberger’s work as a “revolutionary approach” – but isn’t being exposed a language and learning it bit by bit the most well known way to learn a language anyhow?