Become a member

Language Magazine is a monthly print and online publication that provides cutting-edge information for language learners, educators, and professionals around the world.

― Advertisement ―

― Advertisement ―

Building Bonds

Social–emotional learning’s (SEL’s) reach has expanded significantly over the past decade and has especially accelerated during the last few years. High-quality SEL can support...
HomenewsResearchLearning Chinese Stimulates Both Temporal Lobes

Learning Chinese Stimulates Both Temporal Lobes

New evidence suggests that studying Chinese and learning to write Chinese characters may train a whole array of cognitive abilities not developed by learning other languages and writing systems.

A study conducted by researchers from the UK’s Wellcome Trust found that “people who speak Mandarin Chinese use both temporal lobes of their brain to understand the language.” This is very different from English-language speakers who use only the left temporal lobe. The difference is evident because speakers of Chinese “use intonation to distinguish between completely different meanings of particular words,” according to BBC News.

In addition to the unique tonal distinctions of Chinese, the practice of handwriting, especially of Chinese characters, will aid the development of motor skills, learning shapes and letters, the visual identification of graphics, and will keep the mind sharp. Through the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, researchers found that neural activity in children who practiced printing by hand was more enhanced and “adult-like” than those who just looked at letters. Compared with English, which is mostly linear and written from left to right, Chinese characters are more complex in structure and writing involves strokes in all four directions: up, down, left, and right. The sequential movement of the fingers and hand to form a character activates neural activity in the working, thinking, and spatial memory of the brain of the learners.

Evidence also indicates that there is a correlation between the learning of Chinese and math skills. Researchers from New Zealand observed that “Asian children educated in their own languages appear to have gained a greater understanding of mathematical concepts than English speaking children,” and suggested that this is because during the natural acquisition process of Chinese, the student is learning and reinforcing basic mathematical concepts (White et al, 2001). Math skills are embedded in character writing because it involves skills such as counting, grouping, ordering, and identifying similarities and differences.

While the research on the relationship between the learning of Chinese and cognition is not yet conclusive or comprehensive, there is good evidence to suggest that learning Chinese tones and characters represents an added dimension to language learning.

Language Magazine
Send this to a friend