Not too long ago, a study conducted by two researchers at the University of Haifa concluded that, unlike other languages such as English and Hebrew, readers in Arabic perform comparatively much more نشـــــاط دماغـــــــي (cerebral activity), since the two halves of the brain process Arabic differently than they would for other languages.
The two researchers of the University of Haifa are Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim, of the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities and the Learning Disabilities Department, and Prof. Zohar Eviatar of the Department of Psychology.
“It emerges that the contribution of the two halves of the brain to processing written language depends on the graphic and linguistic structure of these languages,” said Dr. Ibrahim.
Cartoon from a Jordanian newspaper: “Wanted! العقـــــل العربــــــــي (The Arab Brain)”
Such research results, if need be, blow to pieces the usual “self-deprecating” pseudo-theories occasionally met in the Arab world, which deal with a presupposed “passivity effect” of the Arabic language upon the brain of its Arab speakers!
Such “self-sarcastic” and “self-deprecating” tendencies are reflected in Arabic jokes often heard in countries like Tunisia and Yemen which can go like this:
“Brains of many nationalities were once being sold for a hefty price, and as it turned out, the most expensive of them all were the ones from [insert name of Arabic country here]… And why is that? Because, supposedly, it’s a brand new brain, never functioned before!”
Now, with the University of Haifa study, whoever harbored any doubts regarding the unique cerebreal features of Arabic language should know better. And perhaps the Arab governments will now start thinking about doing something to put an end to هِجـــــــرة الأدمـــــــغة (the “brain drain”) of Arab scientists—one of the highest in all the regions of the world!
As you already know, each half of the brain, called in Arabic “نِصف كُرة المُـــــــخ“ (a “cerebral hemisphere”), is responsible for a specific set of intellectual activities:
The right hemisphere tackles any مُتَزَامِـــــــــن (“simultaneous”) space-related performance, whereas the left hemisphere takes care of the تسلســــــــــلي (“sequential”) verbal messaging.
To this purpose, the University of Haifa study has led two main tests with subjects divided into three groups, each time using their own mother tongue language:
- Those whose native tongue is العربيــــــــــــــــة (Arabic.)
- Those whose native tongue is الإنجليــــــــــــزية (English.)
- Those whose native tongue is العبريــــــــــــــــة (Hebrew.)
In the first test, “words and pseudo-words (strings of letters that have no literal meaning) were presented on a screen, and the subjects were asked to figure out whether the stimulus was a real word; their response time, accuracy, and sensitivity were measured with every key pressed.”
In the second test, “the subjects were presented with various words on the right or the left side of the screen, which directs the information to be processed by the opposite hemisphere (i.e., when the proper or nonsense word is screened on the right side of the screen, it will be processed by the left side of the brain, and vice versa, a stage called “unilateral”). The various كلمـــــــــات (words) were then shown on both sides of the screen, while under the target word there was a symbol that indicated that this was the word that they should treat, while the other stimulus appeared on the other side of the screen in order to distract the brain processing. This stage is called “bilateral.”
Comparing both tests establishes the level of interaction between the two hemispheres during the brain’s processing of each language.
The results show that as far as Hebrew and English are concerned, both hemispheres of the brain work بصفة مستقلــــة (independently.) On the other hand, for Arabic readers, it emerged that the resources of both the right and left hemisphere were in fact utilized.
“This proves that the Arabic language doesn’t behave like other languages when it comes to anything connected with decoding its graphic symbol,” said Dr. Ibrahim.
Although some would like to interpret the results of the study to brand Arabic language as simply “too hard to learn”, to build the case for “لُغــــــــــــــات أسهــــــــــــل” (“simpler languages”) to learn, the question is again raised as to whether “those who speak certain languages have أَفْضَليّـــــــــــة (an advantage) over those who speak other languages; and the role of pedagogy in improving reading skills among regular readers is brought once again to the fore.”
As far as we are concerned, learning Arabic should be strongly encouraged the same way other intellectual activities are, such as الشَّطـــــــــــــرنج (Chess), which require a higher-than-normal cerebral activity.
The end result?
Among countlessly many other benefits, it develops and enhances مهـــــــــــــاراتـك الإدراكيـــــــــــة والمعرفيــــــــــة (your perceptive and cognitive skills)!