The Brain Remembers Forgotten Language
The brains of infants, who were adopted and raised without exposure to their birth language, still recognize it.
Our brains know languages learned early, even if we don't remember them. That's the conclusion of research by a team from McGill University, including Dr. Denise Klein, a neuroscientist with McGill University's Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, and the Montreal Neurological Institute. She and her colleagues looked at children who had been adopted from China in their first couple of years of life, but not exposed to Chinese language after that. When the researchers played tonal syllables from Chinese to these children, areas in their brains associated with decoding language sounds became active, even though they had no memory or awareness of knowing Chinese at all. This was in stark contrast to children who'd never encountered Chinese at all.