• Alysa Salzberg

Would you wear this nerve-zapping earpiece to learn a language?

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Learning a language is a long and challenging process. If someone told you there was a faster way to do it, you’d probably jump at the opportunity, right?


But what if it meant zapping a nerve that goes to your brain?


Cognitive neuroscientist Matthew Leonard has come up with an earpiece that painlessly stimulates the vagus nerve and at first seems to promise vast linguistic improvement, according to least one study.


Well…it helps with at least one aspect of language learning: the pronunciation of new words.


...And it turns out that the amazing results being promised are only a 13% improvement over a control group that didn’t wear the device. And again, this improvement is only regarding pronunciation, not fluency.


As journalist Luke Dormehl explains, the process isn’t like instantly uploading a new language to your brain. You’d still have to study grammar, memorize vocabulary, practice listening skills, and so on. Essentially, the nerve stimulator is basically just another language learning tool.


Sure, it may be worth tinkering with your nervous system if you’ll come out of the experience flawlessly fluent in a new language. But when you realize the results aren't anywhere near that, it might seem less tempting.


Still, some people may find the experience worth it. And vagus nerve stimulation does have other, more useful applications.


Read on to learn more about vagus nerve stimulation and language learning (well, at least improved language pronunciation).



The earpiece in question

Image source



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