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Off topic: More brain power needed for Mandarin than English
Thread poster: xxxchance
xxxchance
French to Chinese
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Sep 20, 2003

July 1 2003

Mandarin speakers use more areas of their brains than people who speak English, scientists said, in a finding that provides new insight into how the brain processes language.

Unlike English speakers, who use one side of their brain to understand the language, scientists at the Wellcome Trust research charity in Britain discovered that, in Mandarin, both sides of the brain are used to interpret variations in sounds.

"We were very surprised to discover that people who speak different sorts of languages use their brains to decode speech in different ways; it overturned some long-held theories," said Sophie Scott, a psychologist at the charity.

Using brain scans on volunteers, Dr Scott discovered that different areas of the brain are used to interpret words and intonation.

The left temporal lobe of the brain is active when English speakers hear the language but Mandarin speakers use the left and right lobe, which is normally used to process melody in music and speech.


Intonation is important in Mandarin because it gives different meanings to the same word. The word "ma" for example can mean mother, scold, horse or hemp, depending on the tone.

"We think Mandarin speakers interpret intonation and melody in the right temporal lobe to give the correct meaning to the spoken word," Dr Scott said in a statement.

She believes the research could provide insights into what happens when people are forced to relearn speech comprehension following a stroke.

"It seems that the structure of the language you learn as a child affects how the structure of your brain develops to decode speech. Native English speakers, for example, find it extraordinarily difficult to learn Mandarin," Dr Scott said.

The findings will be presented at a science exhibition this week at the Royal Society, Britain's academy of leading scientists, in London.

Reuters


http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/30/1056825341752.html

Suddenly, I do not know how to speak Chinese

Cheers

[Edited at 2003-09-21 09:19]


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Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:32
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
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Interesting finding! Sep 20, 2003

chance,

Interesting finding! I still wonder how true it is.

As a Chinese Mandarin and English speaker myself, I am not sure I have more brain power than an English mono-language speaker, but I know I can pronounce words in foreign language in a way that does not carry much foreign accent. I always attribute such ability to my love to sing (well, that was in the past). I believed that one can pronounce accurately is because he/she has a set of good ears. Well, now it sounds like the brain wiring has to do with it, too.

There is one thing I do know, that is, the Chinese people have very strong survival skills. I told my American friends that my salary in China as a college English instructor was only about USD $6.00 per month. My mother as a doctor made less than USD $10.00 per month for 20 years in her career. They thought I was kidding. I wonder how we made it through while maintaining the political correctness during all those years. Lots of fun moments from those years can still bring me laughs and smiles to this day.

Kevin


[Edited at 2003-09-20 19:21]


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xxxchance
French to Chinese
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TOPIC STARTER
I wonder too ! Sep 21, 2003

Kevin Yang wrote:

chance,

Interesting finding! I still wonder how true it is.

Kevin


[Edited at 2003-09-21 05:13]


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xxxLinguaText
English to Chinese
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Reuters convince us on super power of mother tongue Sep 22, 2003

Chance you seem to me specialize in linguistics or may have great interest! Thank you for the post. Definitely make speaker like us feel comfortable.



[Edited at 2003-09-22 04:57]


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xxxchance
French to Chinese
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Yes. Let us enjoy the pleasure to read that even if I am still wondering... Sep 22, 2003



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Chinoise  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:32
English to Chinese
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Bonjour Chance! Sep 23, 2003

chance wrote:
Suddenly, I do not know how to speak Chinese


Moi aussi!


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chica nueva
Local time: 15:32
Chinese to English
Myths about Mandarin... Sep 26, 2003

算了,不说了.大杀风景了...!
[Edited at 2003-09-27 10:43]

[Edited at 2003-09-27 10:53]


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xxxchance
French to Chinese
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TOPIC STARTER
Probably. :) Sep 26, 2003

la wrote:

I don't think Mandarin is 'extraordinarily difficult for English speakers to learn' - neither the tones nor the characters require any marvellous mental skills as far as I can see, just fairly normal language-learning skills. Of course, modern dictionaries, and hanyu pinyin make it much easier than it used to be...

Westerners who have not learned Chinese like to think that way perhaps. It is a myth, isn't it?


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