What you need to know
People used to think the right brain operates learning Chinese exclusively. However, a recent research points out that it may be a myth.
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A significant breakthrough has been made in research of the human brain. A multinational research team, including Taiwan, has found that human’s reading and writing are all handled by the left-brain and are considerably associated with colloquial abilities. The research overthrew the existing myth, “The right brain is responsible for Chinese reading." Scholar Ovid Tzeng from Academia Sinica and scholars from other Taiwan universities jointly published the research on January 5.
18 scholars from Taiwan, the United States, Israel and Spain conducted the research, which crosses borders, cultures, different fields and languages. After comparing hemoencephalography evidence (a relatively new neuron-feedback-technique within the field of neurotherapy) of four languages including Chinese, English, Hebrew and Spanish, results show that students’ recognition of words by auditory and visual senses appear to be very consistent in the operation of the left-brain, indicating the resemblance in all cognitive systems.
In the writing system, hieroglyphic has always been regarded as a great contrast to alphabetic writing. Many people believe that Chinese is based on hieroglyphs, and English is based on alphabets; therefore, Chinese reading is often considered to link images and meanings through using the right brain; whereas English is considered to link spelling and meaning through the left hemisphere.
Lee Jun-ren, senior lecturer of the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at Taiwan Normal University, believes that, “hieroglyphs are processed only in the right brain," is a misconception. Also, books intending to develop the right brain as well as train the left are all based on myths.
Earlier in 1861, a French neurosurgeon, Paul Broca, had already discovered human language operation was handled by the left-brain when curing patients with aphasia.
Lee even says that the best way for learning is to let both brains operate simultaneously, as humans do nearly everything under the operation of both hemispheres. He notes that pictographs consist of less than 20% in the 5,000 most commonly used Chinese characters.
People used to believe there are differences between the spoken and reading language, but studies have found that upon functioning, the brain uses both; if someone failed to learn how to manage phonetic symbols during his or her childhood, the person may suffer from dyslexia (reading disorder) in the future.
Denise Wu, director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at National Central University, says that the brain may operate differently when learning a second language.
According to preliminary studies, learning a second language may differ due to age and methods. For example, starting to learn at an early age or combining the process with daily lives may enhance the integration between the mother tongue and the foreign language. Contrarily, the later the learning begins, the more likely they will evolve into two independent systems.
But Wu also says that performance in blending both languages does not necessarily represent excellence in the two languages respectively. Many parents anticipate their children to win at the starting point; however, studies show that too much exposure to language stimulation will bring about confusion for preschool children. Therefore, it is still better for speakers to learn in a suitable and natural environment. She also points out that there is a fixed amount of things a child’s brain can learn, so a bilingual child may memorize less Chinese vocabularies than a child only learning Chinese.
Translated by Yuan-ling Liang
Edited by Olivia Yang