- There may be certain areas in the brain that are enlarged or extra efficient that could lend some language learners an advantage.
- Studies show that it becomes more difficult to learn new languages as you get older.
- Neuroscientists are still trying to understand all the various brain regions involved in learning language.
In his spare time, an otherwise ordinary 16-year old boy from New York taught himself Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Swahili, and a dozen other languages, the New York Times reported last week.
And even though it's not entirely clear how close to fluent Timothy Doner is in any of his studied languages, the high school sophomore -- along with other polyglots like him -- are certainly different from most Americans, who speak one or maybe two languages.
That raises the question: Is there something unique about certain brains, which allows some people to speak and understand so many more languages than the rest of us?
The answer, experts say, seems to be yes, no and it's complicated. For some people, genes may prime the brain to be good at language learning, according to some new research. And studies are just starting to pinpoint a few brain regions that are extra-large or extra-efficient in people who excel at languages.