Brain Research in the Foreign Language Classroom



Latest Information:


Current Biology: Newborns' Cry Melody is Shaped by Their Native Language (December 2009)

E-School News: Frontiers of Brain Research: Neuroscience is shaping classroom practice (August 2009)


USA Today: New "science of learning" could reinvent teaching techniques (July 2009)


Science Daily: How Does Language Exist in the Brain? (June 2008)


Phi Delta Kappan:  Brain-Based Education--A fresh look (February 2008)


Northwestern University: Learning a Second Language: Is It All In the Head? (July 2007)

Phi Delta Kappan: Which Brain Research Can Educators Trust? (April 2007)


NSTA: Calcium's role in the Brain (calcium regulates the recharging of high-frequency auditory nerve cells after they have fired a burst of signals, April 2007)

NewScientist: Tell Students to Feed their Brains! (March 2007)

NewScientist: Bilingualism delays onset of dementia (January 2007)


NSTA: Science and the Brain (January 2007)

...scroll down for links to more information!

The Brain in Space:  A teachers guide with activities for Neuroscience
A middle/high school neuroscience curriculum featuring activities that focus on specific effects of weightlessness on neurobiology--of particular interest are activities related to circadian rhythms. The guide documents research conducted on the NASA STS-90 Neurolab Space Shuttle.


The first step for creating a brain-compatible classroom is to consider the emotional and physical factors that affect learning a second language.  Eight important factors to consider are:

         1) ensuring a relatively threat-free learning environment for students; 
         2) providing meaningful content teamed with choices for learning and assessment; 
         3) incorporating many different teaching methods, choosing each approach based on the appropriate stages of the teaching/learning process; 
         4) utilizing collaborative learning methodology frequently; 
         5) employing activities to develop skills in many different areas into the lesson design process (such as incorporating activities relating to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Bloom's cognitive domains, and McCarthy's 4MAT system); 
         6) providing adequate time for students to become involved in projects and activities that will enhance the learning process; 
         7) using multiple resources for teaching, and 
         8) providing immediate feedback for all activities.  


Both Bimonte (1998) and Kovalik (1994) explain the need for creating a classroom atmosphere that enhances all students' learning.  Furthermore, a brain-compatible classroom encourages active participation and teaches positive learning skills, ultimately creating lifelong learners.

Utilizing this type of constructivist model involves treating the learning process as a social process where individual perceptions of reality simultaneously occur that provide building blocks for the construction of linguistic knowledge. 

Bimonte, R. (1998, October/November). “Mysteries of the Brain:  Students thrive in a brain-compatible learning environment.” Momentum, 16-18.  

Kovalik, S. (1994). ITI: The Model Integrated Thematic Instruction.  Kent, Wash.: Books for Educators. 

Links and citations to additional information are provided below:

Kennedy, T. J. & Reese, S. (2007). "A look at Research on Foreign Language Learning and the Brain." The Language Educator, 2(6), 32-35.
Kennedy, T. J. (2006). “Foreign language learning and its impact on the brain:  Connecting language learning with the mind through content-based instruction.” Foreign Language Annals, 39(3), 471-486.
Coggins, P. E., Kennedy, T. J. & Armstrong, T. A. (2004). Bilingual Corpus Callosum Variability. Brain and Language, 89(1), 69-75.  Go to Pub Med to see the abstract of this article.  Type the title in the search option.
Brain Areas Indicating Bilingualism Found (October 2006)
How the Brain makes way for a second language
The bilingual brain:  Proficiency and age of acquisition of the second language (1998)

In Search of . . . Brain-Based Education

Why Learn Languages?
10 Years of Brain Imaging Research Shows The Brain Reads Sound By Sound
Bilingual Children
Jim Cummins
A Global Perspective on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education
G. Richard Tucker
Brain Research:  Implications for Second Language Learning
Fred Genesee
Discussion on Bilingual Acquisition
Language Development in Bilingual Children
The Definition of The Brain & Learning
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
Learning second language changes brain--Bilingual people have more grey matter in key region.  "Neurolinguistics: Structural plasticity in the bilingual brain", Nature 431, 757. Oct. 13, 2004
Being Bilingual Protects Brain
Learning new language helps reduce brain decay. June 14, 2004
Summarizing Concepts about Teacher Education, Learning and Neuroscience 
(Article published in the NWATE Journal of Educational Practices, 2002) You will need Adobe Acrobat to read this file.
To download Adobe Acrobat Reader go to
-- under support click download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Brains show signs of two bilingual roads. July 12, 1997
Foreign Languages: An Essential Core Experience

National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Survey
The Effect of Second Language Learning on Test Scores, Intelligence and Achievement--Compelling Research Findings Regarding The Necessity Of Learning A Foreign Language (Bibliography)
Brain research cited with FLES 2000
Bilingualism Pays Off!
 Additional Resources and Links
--Content-Based Language Learning Materials--
The GLOBE Program and Language Learning  and Making Content Connections through GLOBE

NASA Materials for the FL Classroom

Content-Based Language Teaching with Technology

Barahona Center -- NSTA Recommended science books in Spanish
Click on recommended books and under SUBJECT type "science" limiting your search by GRADE LEVEL (from Grade K to Grade 3 or from Grade 5 to Grade 8).

--Eric Resources on Content-based language learning--
Content Centered Language Instruction

Integrating Language and Content: Lessons from Immersion

Integrating Foreign Language and Content Instruction in Grades K-8

Languages Across the Curriculum

The GLOBE Program Across the Curriculum

Anacleta's Spanish and World Language / Culture Resources Web site

If you find a great resource for brain research please send it to so that I can add it to this list! Thank you!