Motivation and Language

A recent study conducted by scientists showed that neither age nor language proficiency predicted how quickly Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S. learned English. Instead, the immigrants who learned the fastest showed both the greatest motivation to learn and a willingness to use English at every opportunity despite being not very good at it at first, according to a report recently published on MSNBC.com.
To better understand how the brain changes in response to language learning, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle Lee Osterhout held a lab that used electrodes placed on the scalps of language learners and fluent speakers to measure the electrical activity created by the signals of brain cells. This allowed researchers to examine differences in brain patterns between the two groups who were tested. Surprising results were reached from their studies.
Repeated studies of French language students showed that their brains responded differently to real French words in comparison to fake words even if the students themselves were not able to tell the words apart. This was determined after just two weeks of classes. After 32 weeks of instructions, the brain patterns of the students were almost indistinguishable from native French speakers, Osterhout said during a panel that was part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and also reported on MSNBC.com. The report said Osterhout hopes to tease out the importance of motivation in language learning in future research, and he wants to get a better sense of what separates the proficient language speakers from the truly fluent ones.
The article also explained that U.S. government agencies have been forced to learn how to cultivate the most talented second-language speakers among college students with little to no other-language expertise, since there is a lack in students who are fluent in French and/or Spanish when they graduate college.