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September 07, 2004

Brains Wired Differently for English, Chinese Alphabets

A new study has come up with a finding relevant to foreign language teachers and students in East Asia: reading English-style alphabets and Chinese characters use very different parts of the brain. The conclusion was reached when brain scans of Chinese children with dyslexia were found to differ from those of native speakers of western langauges (English, French, Italian), which are consistent. According to a recent article on, neurologists consider the results "very important and innovative," as they strongly indicate that, contrary to what was previously believed, "dyslexia...does not have a universal biological cause." It is thought that once children's brains become hard-wired to a certain writing system, they use the same "circuitry" even when processing a completely different system. While English-reading dyslexics misfire in the left temporal-parietal region of the brain associated with awareness of phonemes, 44 sounds from the English alphabet (located in the middle and upper portions of the brain's left lobe), reading Chinese fires up some different areas in the left-front of the brain associated with symbol interpretation.
Languages train brains differently

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