BBC radio program about language learning

Practising neuroscientist and monoglot Dr Mark Lythgoe grapples with the science of learning languages

Language not only shapes our culture, but it also shapes our brain, body and behaviour. New research suggests that being bilingual could increase your problem solving skills and delay cognitive decline as we get older. This two-part series looks into the science of learning languages. How does language change our brains? And why is it so much harder to learn a language as an adult rather than a child?

During the series, Mark attempts to learn Spanish using a variety of conventional, and more unusual, techniques. Along the way he explores new research on the science behind learning language.

You can listen to both of the radio programs at the BBC site:

Interesting Berta,

I should tell them about LingQ.

I do not believe that only children can learn, I have seen too much evidence to the contrary. But it does require being as inhibited and natural as a child.

I do not believe that a second language controls how we think. However, like anything we learn, another language and culture opens up new vistas, makes us more aware of different aspects of the human condition, and therefore influences how we think. However, the views that I hold, and the way I go about expressing them, is the same in all the languages I speak. I might just be a little direct in some languages, a little more vague in others, and a little more emotional in others. However, the listener is in tune with these differences, and the net result is that the fundamental meaning does not change that much. IMHO.

"I do not believe that only children can learn, I have seen too much evidence to the contrary. But it does require being as inhibited and natural as a child. "
Yes, that’s exactly what they say, that children have an advantage but just because they’re not afraid to make mistakes, not because of the brain itself.

They also come to the conclusion that many people just think they are bad with languages just because they think so, or because their early experience was awful. And they can change that, opening their minds and believing they can.

I don’t know if learning more than one language changes the way you think, but I heard in another BBC program that people who speak more than one language are kind of more creative and are better at multitasking. Just in general, you know how these studies work!. I just believe that the more things you learn, the better.

Maybe those differences are more cultural, and not because of the language itself.


Thanks Berta!

I also really recommend BBC radio podcasts and programmes for advanced 1 and 2 students, because the (British) English is clear and standard, and they are aimed at people who like learning new things. On the other hand they don’t have transcripts and they are not written with non-Brits in mind, even Americans might have some trouble understanding them!

There are good ESL lessons on the BBC for intermediates, with audio and transcripts, look here: BBC Learning English - BBC Learning English - Homepage. Don’t share them publically in the library or the BBC will get angry! But you can import them for your personal learning.

oh I didn’t know about the transcripts, thank you skyblueteapot!

I love british english, listening to them is like music to my ears :))