Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

Effective Learning Material for English (L2) Assessed in Terms of Brain Activation Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)

Hideko Nakano, Kyushu Institute of Technology (Japan)

Masanobu Ueda, University of Kitakyushu (Japan)

Kiyohisa Natsume, Kyushu Institute of Technology (Japan)

Masao Inoue, Hiroshima Prefectural University (Japan)

Mari So, Shimadzu Advertising & Communications, Co. (Japan)


It remains to be elucidated how cortical activations are modulated by factors of proficiency and language task demands when mastering first language (L1) and a second language (L2) [1]. In this study, effective teaching method for Japanese students in English (L2) classroom lessons was assessed in terms of brain activation using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Participants in this fNIRS study were 20 Japanese male university students (20-24 years) performing listening and reading aloud task in a second language (L2-English). Four factors presumably associated with cortical activation, target words level (high/low), task (listening/speaking/shadowing), learning style (individual/in pairs), and leaner’s English proficiency based on their TOEIC score (high proficiency group/ low proficiency group) were investigated.  When the participants are learning unknown English words in higher vocabulary level, and listening and speaking in free conversation, increased bilateral cortical activation was found in the high proficiency group with more left lateralization compared to the low proficiency group.  On the other hand, in the speaking task with the script partially closed shown on the screen, increased bilateral cortical activation was found in the low proficiency group with more left lateralization compared to the high proficiency group.   The results suggest that difficulty levels in tasks and teaching materials should be depended on the learner’s proficiency levels, which is verified by cortical activation in this study.

Keywords: Effective Teaching and Learning,  Brain Activation, fNIRS, task vs. proficiency level.

[1] Y. Tatsuno and K.L. Sakai, Language-related activated in the left prefrontal regions are differentially modulated by age, proficiency, and task demands, The Journal of Neuroscience, 2005, 25, 1637-1644. 

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