In a recent study, Americans studying Hebrew were shown a series of complex shapes. The students weren’t told that the pictures were organized into eight groups of three based on common attributes. The participants who were best at picking out similar shapes also had picked up the most Hebrew at the end of two semesters. The researchers believe this means that learning a new language isn’t just a matter of being linguistically gifted, but is—at least in part—a form of pattern recognition.

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