Foreign language (FL) learning is a cognitively complex process requiring the involvement of different brain regions. Consequently, FL teaching should reflect the neuroreality of language learning. Teachers, however, do not seem to be adequately equipped to either acknowledge the neurolinguistic aspects of language learning or interpret and apply the results obtained in neurostudies. Teaching strategies and pedagogical choices are often based on a variety of theories, trial and error, intuition and acquired experience. Advances in technology-based research involving neuroimaging and physiological measures of cognitive processing provide new ways to approach neurolinguistic data. Many of these approaches have not yet been related to the needs of FL teachers working with language learners. Thus, the aim of this diagnostic study is two-fold: 1. to review 45 seminal brain studies related to language and 2. to identity the potential areas in which brain research can inform FL classroom pedagogy. The preliminary analysis indicates that the results of neurostudies can make teachers aware that language learning leads to structural changes in the brain, give legitimacy to certain language practices used in teaching FL syntax, show that reading has a positive effect on brain tissue, help find justification for the multisensory approach to FL teaching, help raise teachers’ awareness about the negative impact of (debilitative) speaking anxiety on learning outcomes, among others. While brain research cannot prescribe what and how to teach, it is imperative to reflect on its implications for the teaching and learning of a nonnative language.
Małgorzata Szupica-Pyrzanowska, University of Warsaw, Poland