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Neurological Perspective on Arabic

By Matthew Yglesias on September 5, 2010 at 11:31 am

"Neurological Perspective on Arabic"

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In a more serious vein that the post below, this is kind of interesting:

The Hebrew-only speakers behaved like children just starting to read most languages – they tried to tell Arabic letters apart, managed to do it slowly but made a lot of mistakes, and used both hemispheres of their brains. The good Arabic readers, however, only used their left hemispheres to tell Arabic letters apart. [...]

And using both hemispheres is the right thing to do when reading English or Hebrew – so children’s learning strategies would be fine if they were reading another language.

But previous research has found that the right hemisphere is not that good at distinguishing small details, so readers starting to learn Arabic have to learn to focus on small details, which is not natural to them, but could help them shift to their left hemispheres.

This is attributed to the fact that Arabic characters are often distinguished from one another by small details “such as the placement of dots,” though my understanding is that Hebrew works this way too. Would be interesting to see the same research applied to reading Chinese characters.

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