The Basics of What We Understand About Brain Injuries and Language

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, and it has many parts that are responsible for a variety of everyday activities. One of the activities that we do every day is communicate, which involves several parts of the brain.

Damage to certain parts of the brain can change your language capabilities substantially. In some instances, an injured person might have difficulties speaking, while others might have difficulties understanding spoken or written language. Severe brain damage can lead to a complete loss of all language capacities. The difficulties a person encounters depends on the region or the brain that is damaged. Here are a few ways that a brain injury can affect language processing.

How Language Regions of the Brain Can Be Damaged

Areas of the brain that process language could incur damage based from a variety of situations. One typical reason the brain might become damaged is epilepsy, which causes recurrent seizures. It’s also possible for a part of the brain to be damaged during surgery, because of diseases such as brain cancer, or trauma resulting from a physical injury.

Parts of the Brain Associated with Language Processing

Several parts of the brain are associated with language processing, including the Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area.  Other parts of the brain, such as the angular gyrus, insular cortex, and basal ganglia, are involved in language processing as well. According to neuroscience researchers, “Regions in your frontal, temporal and parietal lobes formulate what you want to say and the motor cortex, in your frontal lobe, enables you to speak the words.” Damage to any one of these areas can result in decreased language abilities.

Damage to the Wernicke and Broca Areas of the Brain

When the Wernicke’s area is damaged, a person might be able to speak but not able to understand language. Carl Wernicke first learned this when a patient exhibited this symptom in 1867. A few years earlier, in 1861, Pierre Paul Broca observed a patient who was able to understand language but not produce it. He then found out in a postmortem examination that there was a lesion in what is now known as the Broca’s area.

According to personal injury lawyers, “As one of the most complex organs in the human body, the brain can dramatically alter your daily life when it’s damaged. For instance, if Wernicke’s area of the brain suffers damage, you could no longer be able to understand or comprehend written or spoken words. If Broca’s area is affected, you might not be able to form words to speak.”

Other Types of Language Deficits

The Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area are areas of the brain that are commonly referenced when talking about language loss, but there are other ways that a person can experience a language deficit. A deficit in language is called aphasia, and there are two types of aphasia: receptive and expressive. Receptive aphasia refers to a person’s ability to understand the meaning of language, and expressive aphasia refers to a person’s ability to express language.

Receptive and Expressive Aphasias

An example of receptive aphasia is a person who is able to express language but has difficulty understanding it. A person with receptive aphasia might still retain the ability to speak, but the words they are speaking might not have any meaning.

With an expressive aphasia, a person will be unable to make meaningful language, or their language will be impaired. They will, however, be able to understand language, and they will likely be aware of their impaired deficits in their ability to produce meaningful language.

Do People With Language Deficits Due to Brain Injury Ever Make Progress?

People who suffer a brain injury can make progress, and it’s sometimes over the course of several years or even decades. Those who experience brain injury might have difficulties expressing themselves, but it might get better over time. There are also things you can do to help, such as slowing the conversation or using simplified language to communicate.
Interested in learning more about how language learning affects the brain? Check out the Language Learners Journal for more information and free resources, or sign up for one of our online courses.

How to Expand and Recall Your Vocabulary When Studying a New Language

Vocabulary is one of the most essential components of any language. While grammar is nice to know, the knowledge of what sequence to put those names, feelings, and concepts will do you little good if you do not know how to speak or write those things in that language. This article intends to highlight some suggestions and advice on improving upon your vocabulary and also better retaining the vocabulary you pick up.

Active Engagement is Best

When you set out to learn a new language, either as a hobby or as a means of advancing your viability in the marketplace, you will likely take every opportunity to use that language. By focusing on active vocabulary instead of passive vocabulary when learning a new language, you are better able to retain the words you learn. Especially if you can engage in a spoken conversation with another speaker.

Passive Learning

Passive learning is the form of education that many are familiar with from most classes in public school beyond languages courses. Passive learning involves studying your textbook, writing out answers in your homework and tests, and so on. It is dry, uninvolved and slow to take root. As foreign language courses are a standard element of most school curriculum beyond grade school, try and remember how much vocabulary and grammar you can actually recall from those language courses. Unless you took a language course you regularly use, chances are that you only remember a handful of words and phrases. And that’s likely just because the teacher incorporated some active components in their lesson plan.

Active Learning

Active learning directly involves the student. Having a conversation is one of the quickest ways to grasp a language’s vocabulary. A side benefit of learning from fluent speakers is that it gives you opportunities to learn regional dialects, as well as how certain terms taught passively are used to address specific examples or versions of that term’s definition. In short, you gain context with your vocabulary. One reason why active learning is better retained is that usage settles into the part of your brain governing life experiences. You fondly remember having a conversation, so you can better recall the vocabulary words you practiced and learned. In short, its okay if you want to learn a language from textbooks and software, they still are quite helpful with exercising your visual memory (like with character-based languages), but the best way to broaden your vocabulary is to actively learn and apply it in multiple aspects of your life. Learning is more than simply studying. It also has a lot to do with your state of mind and energy. All in all, there are a lot of ways to learn a language, and active learning will definitely help you to hit the ground running if you’re a traveler.

How Goal Setting Can Help You Learn a Language Faster

So many people say that they’d like to learn a new language, but the reality is that not everyone actually makes good on their plans. Whenever you’re learning something new, goal setting is the key to getting where you want to go. And some goal-making strategies are better than others. To help you learn a language as quickly as possible, we wanted to put together some great goal-setting strategies. Here are some of the best ones.

Be Specific

Whenever you set a goal, whether it is for learning a new language or something else, that goal needs to be specific. If you want to learn a new language, you can’t just say, “I want to learn Portuguese.” That’s too vague. Instead, say something like, “I want to be able to speak Portuguese at a proficient level.” Or you might say, “I want to be able to understand Portuguese text while reading.

Measure Your Progress

Whenever we start something new, it’s easy to fall in love with it. Learning new things is fun, but then you hit a plateau or what was once fun is now difficult or less rewarding. When you track your progress, you get to see results that will spur you on even further.

Develop Structure

When you’re setting goals for learning a new language, you also need to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish each day. Otherwise, you will waste time making decisions. Making decisions is tiring, and it can be confusing, too. Have you ever thought you were on track only to later discover that you had spent months treading water? If you want to develop structure, make appointments with yourself and have specific tasks that you want to accomplish. Then, stick to them. And if you can, find someone to make you stick to them.

Core Skills

When you’re making goals for learning a language, you should understand that language learning has four core skills that you should be working to acquire. These four skills are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Make sure that you build in each of these skills into your goals.

If you’re serious about learning a new language, don’t let your reality get lost in the ether of dreams. Instead, make specific goals that you can track along the way. Also, develop a structure so you don’t find yourself at a loss for what you should be doing or reneging on your dreams. And be sure to incorporate the four core skills of learning a language into your goal setting.