Learning to read words in a new language shapes the neural organization of the prior languages
"Learning a new language entails interactions with one׳s prior language(s). Much research has shown how native language affects the cognitive and neural mechanisms of a new language, but little is known about whether and how learning a new language shapes the neural mechanisms of prior language(s). In two experiments in the current study, we used an artificial language training paradigm in combination with an fMRI to examine (1) the effects of different linguistic components (phonology and semantics) of a new language on the neural process of prior languages (i.e., native and second languages), and (2) whether such effects were modulated by the proficiency level in the new language. Results of Experiment 1 showed that when the training in a new language involved semantics (as opposed to only visual forms and phonology), neural activity during word reading in the native language (Chinese) was reduced in several reading-related regions, including the left pars opercularis, pars triangularis, bilateral inferior temporal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, and inferior occipital gyrus. Results of Experiment 2 replicated the results of Experiment 1 and further found that semantic training also affected neural activity during word reading in the subjects׳ second language (English). Furthermore, we found that the effects of the new language were modulated by the subjects׳ proficiency level in the new language. These results provide critical imaging evidence for the influence of learning to read words in a new language on word reading in native and second languages."