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Language Learning And Puzzles

Photo of puzzle.

Those who are good at solving puzzles are often also good at learning languages. (Charles Hamm, Wikimedia Commons)

According to new research, if a person is good at recognizing patterns, that’s a good indicator that they’ll be good at learning languages, too. There’s mixed research on whether language learning ability is based on language specific capacities in the brain, or whether it draws on more general pattern-recognition abilities.

Some research on students learning Hebrew suggests the latter. A team of researchers tested a group of students as they were starting to learn Hebrew in their first semester of a study abroad program, and later again in the second semester. The students were also tested on their abilities to recognize patterns in a series of shapes.

They watched a stream of 24 different shapes presented one at a time. The shapes were organized into eight triplets. The order in which the triplets appeared was randomized, but the shapes in each triplet were always in the same sequences. Later, the students were tested to see whether they recognize that they had been seeing the same eight triplets or not.

The students who performed well on this pattern-recognition task were the same ones who showed better reading proficiency in Hebrew by the second semester.

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