Scientists have been hard at work scanning entire brains to find out things such as why babies might learn languages faster or which babies are likely to have better language acquisition ability later and their fascinating results have just been published..

Apparently the results suggest that early gray-matter and white-matter concentration in infancy predict future language learning abilities. Specifically the cerebellum and the hippocampus are the regions where such concentrations matter in regard to linguistic skills.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to scan the brain structures of infants and then at various ages and stages of development tests were conducted to assess language ability each time. The results were somewhat unexpected..

“Looking at the whole brain produced a surprising result and scientists live for surprises. It wasn’t the language areas of the infant brain that predicted their future linguistic skills, but instead brain areas linked to motor abilities and memory processing,” according to Patricia Kuhl, from the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

Is this useful to know? Well in theory yes, for example it may be possible to detect babies with learning difficulties earlier and take steps to correct it with appropriate actions, getting them back on track to learning.

Does it mean that (some) adults are just going to be no good at learning languages? No, everyone can learn a language with the right attitude, motivation, learning materials and methods appropriate to the age and preferences of the student. In other words – you can do it so stop looking for excuses! 😉