Second Language in the Brain 

Free event

A partnership between the Department of Humanities - University of Pavia and the Centre for Applied Research and Outreach in Language Education (CAROLE) - University of Greenwich

London - University of Greenwich (UK), 4 October 2014

The human brain undergoes both functional and anatomical changes to cope with the task of learning a second language in adulthood. Folk-science gurus and market-sellers have been advertising brain-compatible L2 teaching methods since the early eighties, when theories about lateralisation of language-related functions began to inspire the popular division of teaching-units between “analytical” (left-centered) and “creative-emotional” (right-centered) classroom activities. Since then, assuming that the learning brain must react in predictable ways to grammar drills or to ‘singing along’ has always appeared to many qualified teachers as the best way to provide their job with a scientific flavour.

In this Symposium, we would like to ask three basic questions:Is teaching useful (whether explicit or implicit)? Does language immersion and naturalistic exposure really make a difference? Does the kind of spoken interaction among native and non-native speakers count for language acquisition?

The novelty of the current symposium does not lie in the questions, but in the kind of answer: complex and experimentally-grounded answers only will be provided. Indeed, it has only been quite recently that ERPs and neuroimaging techniques have been used to explore the impact that some environmental factors may have on changes in the brain occurring during second language acquisition. The symposium focuses on three of these environmental factors: (a) classroom instruction; (b) interaction among native and nonnative speakers; (c) immersion and everyday life in the country where the second language is spoken.

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