Different Locations Of The Brain English Language Essay


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Learning word pairs is a traditional method of vocabulary learning which consists of memorizing foreign vocabulary items together with their synonyms or translation. Webb (2009) has argued that there should be a place for learning word in our mind. He believes that word can be learnt receptively or productively. Receptive learning of words pairs involves meeting decontextualized L2 vocabulary item and then trying to recall its L1 meaning while productive learning involves meeting decontextualized L1 item and then trying to recall its L2 form. Recent research on human brain has greatly improved our understanding of brain function. Various type of brain scan allow scientist to see which area of the brain are active for different function. To form a backdrop for the present study, This presentation seeks to explore how vocabulary is acquired and represented in memory by focusing on information processing, and the role STM & LTM. By and large, this presentation attempt to explore a where words are stored in our brain. Specifically, it attempts to answer the following question: Are active/passive vocabularies stored in different locations of the brain?

According to Miller (1956), human memory just like information processing system in computer usually under goes three steps: encoding, storage and retrieval. Human brain encode sensory information into a neural language and stores vast amount of information in long term memory where we can retrieve information into a short term memory whose capacity is limited

According to Laufer (1998), Brain research shows that skilled and unskilled readers use different parts of the brain to process information. Most of the brain function takes place in the parieto-temporal lobe, which is the word analysis area, in the brains of unskilled readers. Broca’s area, a part of the brain that controls speech production, assists the parieto-temporal lobe in recognizing written words. These parts of the brain are most active when a child begins to recognize the relationships between spoken language and alphabet letters. Skilled readers' brains rely mainly upon the occipito-temporal area, which is the long-term storage area for words. The brain creates a visual word form and stores it in this part of the brain. The brain retrieves the image as well as its spelling, pronunciation and meaning from storage when the child sees the word again.

The Role of Working/Short Term Memory

Short term phonological memory is extremely important to foreign language acquisition. The ability to segment speech into discrete sound segments and words is an important precursor to vocabulary acquisition that is useful to both infants and adults. This lexical parsing is accomplished only after phonological regularities of a language have been perceived (Elman, 1990, Jusczyk & Hohne, 1997, as cited in Laufer, 1998). The working memory model proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) suggests that short-term memory is responsible for temporary storage and manipulation of speech. This consists of the phonological store for input and the phonological loop which can refresh contents of the store. Those individuals able to learn the phonological regularities or sequences of language and subsequently store them in long term memory are believed to be the most successful native and foreign language learners. Thus, short term memory must be employed to acquire a language.

This perception of patterns and their entry into short term memory is particularly important in early vocabulary acquisition. The association between the phonological loop capacity of short term memory and vocabulary knowledge, independent of nonverbal intelligence, is significant (Gathercole & Thorn, 1998). Service (1992) in a study of Finnish school children aged nine to ten found that earlier ability to repeat nonsense syllables was highly correlated to vocabulary scores. Similarly, studies of learning disabled individuals have found that individuals with general conceptual learning deficits can possess phonological capacities well within the normal range. It is no wonder that tests to access foreign language learning ability are heavily tilted toward the ability to process the patterns found in a language’s sounds and symbols (Carroll & Sapone, 1959).

The Role of Storage and Long-Term Memory

Language learning proceeds according to the learner’s stage of learning. Although the more successful language learners appear to have a proclivity for parsing words, an alternative route which has been little studied until recently exists for acquiring vocabulary. Native and foreign language learners have been shown to rely more heavily on established vocabulary than on short term phonological memory after a certain vocabulary threshold has been reached. Once a vocabulary base has been initiated, individuals may access long term memory for templates for further vocabulary acquisition. Thus, learners profit more from vocabulary according to their stage of language acquisition.

The Interface of Short Term and Long Term Memory

After an initial stage of acquisition, the language learner may use both short and long term memory to accumulate more words. The mechanism whereby existing vocabulary is accessed to comprehend language has been reported to be similar to the pattern-selecting abilities of infants (Nation, 2001). That is, a word is now predicted on the basis of a statistical probability established by the previously-acquired vocabulary base (Thorn & Gathercole, 1998). It is postulated that the ability to use old vocabulary to learn new words is the process by which those speakers who are poor decoders circumvent using faulty phonological memory and eventually learn vocabulary. However, as Thorn and Gathercole have pointed out, because this probability is based on the specific forms or structures established in the native language, this process may be less efficient in foreign language learners. Thus, according to the learner’s need, he may access short term, or long term memory to acquire more vocabulary. Which avenue he employs will depend in great part upon his ability to process speech or print through the phonology of short term memory, and by language experience, as determined by the amount and accessibility of vocabulary words already stored in long-term memory. The short-term route is form-based and relies heavily on sound initiated perception and parsing, a bottom-up in orientation. The long-term route appears to begin in semantic stores from which phonological patterns are extracted, with a top-down orientation. Thus, new vocabulary may be acquired in two ways: through accessing the referent linked to a whole word or at least significant parts of a word (through pattern recognition), or by processing phonology and creating a new representation by perception of patterns of sounds in speech linked to a meaning.

Vocabulary then may be perceived to exist in memory as labeled concepts that exist in relation to other concepts. The ability to use vocabulary is not only dependent upon the characteristics of each word, but also upon its relationship to other words, or language as a whole. The strength of representations of words as well as their number, organization and interrelations, are extremely important when assessing how a language may be acquired.

Passive/active vocabulary (Receptive/productive distinction)

According to Coady & Huckin (1997), many a paragraph in the literature is devoted to what it means to know a word. The passive knowledge can best be described by considering what happens when an utterance is comprehended. They postulate that the ability of a person to actively produce their own speech and writing is called their active language knowledge. This is compared to their ability to understand the speech and writing of other people, their passive language knowledge. Native speakers of a language can understand many more words than they actively use.

Nation (2001) maintains that some words in the language will remain passive; we understand them when we hear or read them, but we may not use them in our speaking or writing. However, the vocabulary of active use should be systematically presented and practiced. The term passive/active are sometimes used as synonyms as receptive and productive vocabularies.

Words in the brain: location of verbal information storage

According to Morra and Camba (2009), a passive vocabulary includes the words that stored in verbal memory that people partially understand but not well enough for active use. They maintained that words are stored in the temporal lobe in the brain. A brain has two sides (hemispheres) connected by corpus collusom. So one has a temporal lobe on each side of the brain. If you are a right handed, your language is mostly stored in your left temporal lobe. If you are left handed you are not so lateralized and your language is stored a bit on both sides of your brain in the temporal lobes. They postulated that words in the brains are not stored randomly. They seemed to be quite organized. Research has shown that words that are often heard together such as salt and pepper or words that share some meaning such as nurse and doctor are connected or associated in the brain. Once you hear one, the other is activated.

According to Richardson et al. (2009), previous studies have suggested that gray matter density in the posterior supramarginal gyri (PSMG) provides a marker for the number of words learnt. The association of posterior supramarginal gyri with language learning was first reported by Michelle, et al. (2005), who identified greater grey matter density in this region for bilinguals than for monolinguals. Moreover, increases in gray matter density were found to be positively correlated with L2 proficiency. The significant of this effect was investigated further by Lee et al. (2007) who found that vocabulary knowledge in English speaking monolingual teenagers was positively correlated with gray matter density with the same posterior supramarginal gyri that was implicated in adult L2language learning.

Final Remark

Literature review indicates that there is very little clear and accurate knowledge about how most brain processes actually work. We do know that a person has about 100 billion brain cells (neurons) in his or her brain, and that memory consists of connections, or networks of connections, between these cells. But there is, for example, little knowledge about how the brain stores the banks of data required for language processing. We know that information from the ear is transmitted to the brain by means of strings of electrical and chemical data passed along special types of cells. Also those stimuli in the Motor Cortex are transmitted in a similar way to the various organs and muscles that control speech. According to Laufer (1998), it is still mystery that how are words and meanings stored in the brain? Mora and Comba (2009) argued that words are stored in the temporal lobe in the brain (left or right hemisphere) depending if you are left handed or right handed. But my guess is that they are linked because receptive tasks can developed some productive knowledge.

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