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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

How Embarassment Limits Our Ability to Learn New Languages

Can you remember what it was like for you to learn your native language?  Probably not, but why is that?

As humans, we begin learning to speak our native language during the earliest stages of our lives, in infancy.  Most people don’t have many accessible memories from this period of development. How do we do that?

If we can learn a language in our infant stages of life, why is it so difficult to learn a second language later in life?

On this week’s episode of Two Guys on Your Head, Art Markman and Bob Duke explore how we learn language.

So, why is it so much easier to learn language as a baby than it is to learn a second language later in life?  Of course, it’s because of our brains.  As babies, we exist in a constant state of shameless trial and error and self-correction-based learning. 

This kind of learning is essential to understanding the subtleties and complexities of a language.  As we grow older, especially during puberty when our transformation into fully functional adults takes hold, our learning becomes tainted with self-analysis and feelings of embarrassment. 

These are language-learning killers.  For many, it feels incredibly embarrassing as an adult to attempt to speak a new language and mess it up.

Instead, most of us feel more comfortable being relegated to speaking the language we know. To those who speak more than one language fluently, pat yourself on the back.

To those who don't, there's no shame in trying out a new one. So, shake that off if you want to give it a shot.

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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