Research has found that girls and boys learn second languages differently which might lead to new strategies for teaching which accommodate those differences.
By monitoring neural activity while English sentences were being read, researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University saw that boys tend to show more activation in parts of the brain associated with grammatical rules (syntax); girls used a wider range of language information, including speech sounds (phonology) and meaning of words and sentences (semantics).
Prof Fumitaka Homae and team studied Japanese junior high school students learning English as a second language in a school environment. The majority of work into the neuroscience behind learning a second language is based on immigrant populations in the United States, and children in the multi-lingual environment of Europe.
The boys and girls were given a standardised English test and a test of 'Working Memory', a temporary storage in the brain used to organise, manipulate and analyse newly arrived information. They then listened to English sentences, including some with grammatical errors; observations of brain activity were taken using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and event-related potential (ERP) measurements. fNIRS tells us which parts of the brain are active; ERP gives us an idea of how brain activity varies with time.
There are two different strategies at work, boys leverage efficient processing and rule-based 'implicit' thinking; girls draw on a wider range of linguistic information, achieving 'explicit' comprehension of sentences.
The results revealed a surprising disparity in how boys and girls deal with sentences. The girls performed better on the tests, and had more working memory. However, boys showed no correlation between working memory and performance, while girls did.
Looking at brain activity, fNIRS revealed that boys showed increased activation with proficiency in the front of the brain when they heard a correct sentence, while girls showed more at the back.
The front is linked with 'syntactic' processing i.e. rule-based understanding of sentences; the back is associated with a wider range of language processing. Boys displayed an overall decreased response for incorrect sentences; girls showed the exact opposite.
ERPs also showed disparities, with boys exhibiting a strong response to incorrect sentences early on, a phase thought to be associated with 'syntactic' processing. Girls only showed a difference between correct and incorrect sentences at later times.
Breakfasts at school have had a great effect on learning outcomes and it looks like the same goes for lunch according to an investigation of 120 million Indian students. Read More
Ivanhoe Grammar School has opened its University Campus for Year 9 at La Trobe University. It offers a year-long program designed to expose students to the self sufficiency of university life. Read More
Experts have endorsed the announcement that the government will cancel the uni debts of teachers who commit to working for four years in remote indigenous communities and say more must be done to attract locals to teaching. Read More
The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund has launched the new $15,000 Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy, part of almost $2m it awards every year. Read More
Yamaha Music Australia’s Great Start Grant is a nationwide initiative with a very generous $60,000 worth of musical instruments given to the winning school and more. Read More