Are you struggling to learn a second language? Does “I can’t” feature in your excuses for not learning something new?

Well, your excuses are no longer valid, because according to a new study, you can learn a new language! Cambridge neuroscientists have found it takes just 15 minutes to learn a new word -all you need to do is listen to the word 160 times in that period. The brain will form new networks for that word which are tasked with remembering it.

The research was conducted not to help people learn a language, but to assist stroke patients in recovering their language skills. The study has been completed with healthy volunteers but the researchers hope to move on to test the theory in stroke patients also.

Dr Yury Shtyrov and his team made the discovery after placing electrodes on the heads of 16 healthy volunteers to monitor their brain activity.

First they recorded the pulses generated when they listened to a familiar word. Then the volunteers were made to listen to a made-up word, over and over again.

Initially the brain had to work hard to recognise the new word. But after 160 repetitions over 14 minutes, the new memory traces were “virtually indistinguishable” from those of the already familiar word, said Dr Shtyrov.

He said: “What this suggests is that practising language is important. Every little helps.

“Just perception – listening – is helpful. Our volunteers didn’t repeat the words.”

Getting them to repeat the words would “probably extend the new neural networks” to the part of the brain tasked with speech, he said. (Source: The Telegraph)