Trying harder makes language learning more difficult

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A recent study conducted at MIT showed that adults’ understanding of grammar decreases if they actively pay attention to  the grammar and try to decode unfamiliar grammatical structures. The study which made the subjects listen to an artificial language for 10 minutes either passively or actively concluded that listening while focusing on grammar actually reduced the participants’ ability to identify words that are morphologically different than other words they are paired together.

The researchers mentioned that children in general are better at picking up grammar because they don’t analyze deeply what they are exposed to, thus learn languages subconsciously. The Post included

““Children will ultimately perform better than adults in terms of their command of the grammar and the structural components of language — some of the more idiosyncratic, difficult-to-articulate aspects of language that even most native speakers don’t have conscious awareness of,” Finn says.

In 1990, linguist Elissa Newport hypothesized that adults have trouble learning those nuances because they try to analyze too much information at once. Adults have a much more highly developed prefrontal cortex than children, and they tend to throw all of that brainpower at learning a second language. This high-powered processing may actually interfere with certain elements of learning language.”

The original post can be found here