Bilingual Brains Process Differently Depending on the Language Used

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 11:10

A research team led by Dr. Amandine Van Rinsveld and Professor Dr. Christine Schiltz from the Cognitive Science and Assessment Institute (COSA) at the University of Luxembourg have investigated the effect of multilingual people in solving arithmetical tasks.

The question will gain in importance in the future, as an increasingly globalised job market and accelerated migration will mean that ever more people seek work and study outside of the linguistic area of their home countries, Science Daily reports.

The study’s authors recruited students for whom Luxembourgish was their mother tongue and had carried on studying in Belgium and were therefore fluent in both German and French and were asked to solve a mixture of simple and complex math problems in both languages.

Participants’ brain activity was measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging and the results showed that different regions of the brain were in use when the participants were solving problems in different languages.

The study documents for the first time, with the help of brain activity measurements and imaging techniques, the demonstrable cognitive "extra effort" required for solving arithmetic tasks in the second language of instruction. The research results clearly show that calculatory processes are directly affected by language.

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