Early language exposure impact on later abilities

Scientific Evidence Platform Needs more evidence Early language exposure impact on later abilities
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  • Romeo, R. R., Leonard, J. A., Robinson, S. T., West, M. R., Mackey, A. P., Rowe, M. L., & Gabrieli, J. D. (2018). Beyond the 30-million-word gap: Children’s conversational exposure is associated with language-related brain function. Psychological science29(5), 700-710. doi: 10.1177/0956797617742725



Children’s early language exposure affects their later language skills, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement, and large disparities in language exposure are associated with family socioeconomic status. However, there is little evidence about the neural mechanisms underlying the relationship between language experience and linguistic and cognitive development.

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Vladia Ionescu



Language switching decomposed through MEG and evidence from bimodal bilinguals
People who speak more than one language have a remarkable ability to switch languages very quickly and also correctly. The neuronal activity exclusively associated with disconnecting from one language and then associating with another is the objective of this study. The results suggest that the burden of language change is based on separation from the old language, rather than use in a new language. Furthermore, in the absence of motor restrictions, producing two languages simultaneously is not necessarily more cognitively costly than producing one. Rather, producing both at the same time was easier than having to suppress the dominant language.

 The social brain of language: grounding second language learning in social interaction

In this study, the research team has analyzed, using non-invasive neuroimaging techniques, the way in which neurocognitive bases are integrated with social cognition of the second language, together with different theories of language and memory. The analysis has also contrasted traditional learning techniques based on paired associations, grammar exercises, classroom environment, memory for abstract processing, intensive training methods versus those that focus on the social brain of language learning and encompass interaction social interaction with people and objects, full incorporation into the learning context, self-exploratory learning in virtual environments, sensory engagement / integration and brain changes, and the development of valid neuroimaging techniques

Last edited 1 year ago by Beatriz Villarejo Carballido
Gontzal Uriarte


  • Language Exposure Relates to Structural Neural Connectivity in Childhoodhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30104336/


Language Exposure Relates to Structural Neural Connectivity in Childhoodhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30104336/

This neuroscience study claims that the early language exposure impact on early neural plasticity underlying cognitive development:

“Results suggest that the development of dorsal language tracts is environmentally influenced, specifically by early, dialogic interaction. Furthermore, these findings raise the possibility that early intervention programs aiming to ameliorate disadvantages in development due to family SES may focus on increasing children’s conversational exposure to capitalize on the early neural plasticity underlying cognitive development

Last edited 1 year ago by Beatriz Villarejo Carballido
Harkaitz Zubiri


Several studies demonstrated that richer early exposure to language has a positive impact on skill development in later life.
The following study suggests that early language exposure promotes the development of effective communication skills:
Fan, S.P., Liberman, Z., Keysar, B., & Kinzler, K.D. (2015). The exposure advantage: Early exposure to a multilingual environment promotes effective communication. Psychol Sci., 26(7), 1090–1097. DOI:10.1177/0956797615574699.

Likewise, the following study demonstrates that early language exposure induces lifelong neuroplasticity in the auditory brainstem and more robust speech encoding in the auditory brainstem in adults.
Giroud, N., Baum, S.R., Gilbert, A.C., Phillips, N.A., & Gracco, V. (2020). Earlier age of second language learning induces more robust speech encoding in the auditory brainstem in adults, independent of amount of language exposure during early childhood. Brain and Language, 207:104815. DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2020.104815

And the following study demonstrates that richer early language exposure induces the development of the size of the auditory cortex.
Ressel, V., Pallier, C., Ventura-Campos, N., et al. (2012). An Effect of Bilingualism on the Auditory Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(47), 16597-16601. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1996-12.2012

Likewise, the following study demonstrates that early exposure in language immersion enhances the preattentive discrimination ability of non-native speech sound contrasts.
Peltola, M.S., Kuntola, M., Tamminen, H., et al. (2005). Early exposure to non-native language alters preattentive vowel discrimination. Neuroscience letters, 388(3), 121-125. DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2005.06.037

Last edited 1 year ago by Beatriz Villarejo Carballido

For many years it was believed that the idea was that learning in two languages forced on people a heavier load on schoolchildren who must learn two vocabularies, two sets of grammar, and probably two sets of cultural habits and expectations. This idea began to be questioned thanks to the study by Peal and Lambert (1962) where they published a series of intelligence tests done on bilingual and monolingual children, in which they expected to find that monolingual and bilingual children would be equivalent on measures of nonverbal intelligence, but that bilinguals would obtain lower scores on verbal measures. however, bilingual children outperformed their monolingual peers on virtually all of the tests, including tests of nonverbal intelligence. 
From that moment on, several studies have begun to be carried out that demonstrate several points such as:

  • That extra effort and a longer learning in the area of language apparently gives benefits to nonverbal mental abilities, providing as false the idea that language is a separate module of mind and brain that depends dedicated processes (Fodor, 1983).
  • Bialystok (1992) reported that bilingual children performed better than their monolingual counterparts on the Embedded Figures Test. In this test, participants must find a simple visual pattern hid in a larger complex figure. Bialystok proposed that the better performance of bilingual children might throw back light on their superior ability to focus on wanted information and ignore sneaky and false information.
  • Other studies show that infants often use words from their second language speaking in the other language as it may be that the suitable word in the language being used is difficult to locate or the word or phrase in the language not being used (Poulisse, 1997;. Poulisse & Bongaerts, 1994; Sandoval et al., 2010). It also suggests that the brain mechanisms in charge of maintaining attention to selected language are less effective in childhood and adulthood.

The text also states that people who speak two o more languages could develop a strong ability to only for a short time stop access to the nonrelevant language while maintaining attentional set on the language in current use. This ability may be helped settle an argument by the front parts of the brain and may therefore show a lifespan developmental trend that peaks in young adulthood. The further suggestion is that the constant need to exercise this lessening or stopping control leads to the development of especially effective attentional functions that are then drawn on to mediate good performance on a variety of nonverbal tasks needing inhibition of unwanted or sneaky and false material and concurrent selection of relevant aspects.

Bialystok, E., Fergus I.M. Craik, David W. Green, Tamar H. Gollan (2009). Bilingual minds. Sage journals. https://journals-sagepub-com.sabidi.urv.cat/doi/10.1177/1529100610387084#_i12

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