Jul. 12 – A new study at the University of Haifa in Israel sheds light on the mechanisms of language acquisition and suggests that there are distinct language areas in the brains of bilingual people. A unique single case study was tested by Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim of the Department of Learning Disabilities and published in the Behavioral and Brain Functions journal. It shows that first and second languages are represented in different places in the brain. Ibrahim examined a 41-year-old bilingual patient whose mother tongue is Arabic and who had fluent command of Hebrew as a second language, at a level close to that of his mother tongue. He suffered damage to the brain that was expressed in a language disorder (aphasia) that remained after completing a course of rehabilitation. During rehabilitation, a higher level of improvement in use of the Arabic language was recorded, and less for the use of Hebrew. After rehabilitation, the patient’s language skills were put through various standardized tests, most of which revealed that damage to the patient’s Hebrew skills were significantly more severe than the damage to his Arabic skills. According to Ibrahim, this case constitutes an important step toward developing a structural model to represent languages in the brain.
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