Two Types of memories help us learn languages

A Georgetown University study ensures that we process languages with two types of memories.

A recent Georgetown University study reveals that the human nodes process languages through brain circuits that are also used for many other purposes, such as learning how to ride a bicycle or to remember the grocery shopping list .

The study concludes that bilinguals have healthier brains.

The study, recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , was able to demonstrate that these brain circuits are not unique only to humans, as they are also found in animals, such as mice, which use them to accomplish different tasks, such as learning to navigate a labyrinth.

The research focused on declarative (also known as explicit) and procedural memory (or non-declarative). It concluded that remembering words from a new language that we are learning, is a task performed through declarative memory. This is the same memory we use to remember we had dinner yesterday or something that you have to do for the day.

  • The procedural memory, focuses on the mental potential to save and gather data that can not be expressed orally. It is more durable and easy to maintain.
  • The declarative memory, the idea of ​​knowing that something happened, focuses on the human gift to verbally express events. It is subjected to the practice of remembering, and is subdivided into episodic and semantic memory. Episodic memory is the ability to reconstruct memories from a series of events, while semantic is the ability to keep a more structured record of facts.

The grammatical skills we acquire during our childhood together with the learning of our mother tongue, have a great relationship with our procedural memory. That is, we use the same memory to learn a language when we are children that we use to learn other tasks, such as riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument.

When applied to adults that are learning a new language, this study revealed that the ability to learn a language relates directly to both declarative memory, in the early stages of learning, and to procedural memory, in later stages as we move forward in the learning process.

Intensive language learning makes the brain grow.

According to the authors of the study, these findings could be extremely useful, not only to understand the biology and evolution of language, but also how we learn and how we can improve language study and learning, and contribute in the future to people who suffer from some language disorders such as autism or dyslexia.

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