Bilingual Brains: Reading in Hebrew and in English

i-54fab032f68238d668a258aff1fe7997-jewish journal logo.gif

I've got an article that appeared in this week's Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles about recent research from Hadassah University on the neurobiology of bilingual (English-Hebrew) reading.

Is the English-reading brain somehow different from the Hebrew-reading brain? You might not expect any major differences; after all, both languages are alphabetic and are read more or less phonetically by breaking words into their constituent sounds. Compare English and Hebrew to a logographic language like Chinese or Japanese, and the similarity between the alphabetic languages becomes obvious. But new research by Hadassah University researchers Atira Bick and colleagues, published online in October in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, found that despite their similarities, there are some key differences in the way the brain processes English and Hebrew words.

I'm particularly excited about this as its my first in-print article, but also because this is part of my ongoing effort to get science into publications where you wouldn't otherwise expect it (i.e. "push journalism"). It's a particularly tough (but fun) challenge to entice readers into reading an article about science if they're not already seeking it out.

Bick AS, Goelman G, & Frost R (2010). Hebrew Brain vs. English Brain: Language Modulates the Way It Is Processed. Journal of cognitive neuroscience PMID: 20961169

More like this

Nice article on a topic partially related to my own research in bilingual lexicon (I'm even doing work on the same two languages). Of course, Frost and co. generally produce top notch work. I applaud you getting the work out into a broader audience.

congratulations! There's something about being printed on paper that feels more like real writing somehow :-)

This is something everyone can relate to, and it would be surprising to find someone that has not considered the possibility of brain region variation of function with language. Perhaps grammar differences are the reason for the processing variations.

Music is what gave me this idea. Some music is highly mathematical, and some very melodic and lyrical. Many people not exposed to a music style previously cannot appreciate the pattern and one style may sound great according to one individual, with the same song sounding dissonant to another person. The music alphabet is the same in both instances despite opposite interpretations. Great topic!