A recent study has determined that the first language influences how the brain interprets language subsequently, even if the first language is no longer spoken.
According to the study from McGill University in Canada, French speaking children who were first exposed to Chinese when they were very young continued to show the brain activity patterns of bilingual people long after they had stopped speaking their native Chinese.
The study was published in Nature Communications. Researchers observed brain activity in three groups of children between the ages of 10 and 17. They read made up French sounding words, such as”chausette” and “Vapagne”. Group one comprised of children who only spoke French and whose native language was French. Group two were children who were born in China but adopted by French – only speaking families before the age of three and never spoke Chinese again. Group three was composed of children who were completely bilingual in both French and Chinese.
The results showed that brains of the children who were adopted by French families worked in amanner more similar to the brains of the bilingual children than of the French-only speaking children.
“This is very interesting from a language development perspective because it allows us to look at the influence of just that very early period of language development on later language processing, separately from the effects of ongoing exposure to one or more languages,” said Laura Pierce, a researcher involved in the study.