Unconscious Grammar Correction

It turns out our brains catch grammatical errors even when we don’t realize it. In a University of Oregon study, subjects were presented with sentences one word at a time and asked to catch any errors. When the task of rating an intermittent auditory tone was added to distract the subject’s conscious mind, the subject noticed fewer errors, but electroencephalography readings showed that the brain was still catching and correcting each error so that the sentence made sense.

This finding has interesting implications for language instruction. “Children learn grammar implicitly before receiving formal instruction, but in the classroom we often try to teach second languages in the opposite way–learn the grammar rules explicitly, then build vocabulary around them. This research suggests that may be backward, that our brains should learn the grammar rules implicitly without thinking too much about them. After all, it’s the unconscious brain that seems to have the better handle on grammar.”

Read more about this study at ScienceDaily.