How understanding
the neurocognition of language can help us improve
second language learning and pedagogy

Prof. Dr. Michael Ullman (Georgetown University, USA, Department of Neuroscience)

A talk for the ↗︎ Virtual Laboratory
on Cognitive Approaches to L2 Instruction:

Bridging Theory, Research and Practice

July 16, 2020, 16:00–17:30
Central European time (Berlin, Paris, Rome)

Please use this ↗︎ Eventbrite link to register for this FREE EVENT (recommended)

Access to the ↗︎ virtual room without registration
Password (if required): HEIDELBERG


I will discuss current theory and evidence regarding the neural and cognitive bases of language learning and processing, and will show how this can help us improve second language learning and pedagogy. In brief, increasing evidence suggests that we learn both first and later-learned (second) languages in two very well-studied general-purpose learning and memory circuits in the brain: declarative memory and procedural memory. Thus, our independent understanding of these circuits, including how learning and memory can be improved, should also apply to language. In this talk I will first present background on the learning and memory circuits, and show how they underlie first and second language learning and processing. I will then discuss how learning, retention, and processing can be improved in these circuits, and how this can help us enhance second language learning and pedagogy


Michael T. Ullman is an American neuroscientist whose main field of research is the relationship between language, memory and the brain. His Declarative/Procedural model of language has greatly affected the field of psycholinguistics and cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Ullman is Professor in the ↗︎ Department of Neuroscience, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Psychology and Neurology. He is Director of the ↗︎ Brain and Language Lab, and Director of the Georgetown EEG/ERP Laboratory. (See also: ↗︎ more, ↗︎ publications.)

Recommended literature

Ullman, M.T., Earle, F.S., Walenski, M. & Janacsek, K. (2020). The neurocognition of developmental disorders of language. Annual Review of Psychology. 71, 389–417. ↗︎ Online.

Ullman, M.T. (2020) Declarative/Procedural Model. A Neurobiologically Motivated Theory of First and Second Language (Chapter 8), In: VanPatten, B., & Williams, J. (Eds.) Theories in Second Language Acquisition. An Introduction, (pp. 128-161). Routledge. 2nd edition ↗︎ online.

Ullman, M.T, & Lovelett, J.T. (2018). Implications of the declarative/procedural model for improving second language learning: The role of memory enhancement techniques. Second Language Research. 34(1), 39-65. ↗︎ Online.

Ullman, M. T. (2016). How does language depend on general-purpose long-term memory systems in the brain? In G. Hickok & S. A. Small (Eds.), The neurobiology of language (pp. 953–968). New York, NY: Elsevier.

Ullman, M.T. (2015). The Declarative/Procedural Model: A Neurobiological Model of Language Learning, Knowledge, and Use, In: G. Hickok & S.L. Small (Eds.) Neurobiology of Language, Academic Press: lsevier, 953-968. ↗︎ Online.

Ullman, M. T. (2014). Language and the brain. In J. Connor-Linton & R. W. Fasold (Eds.), An introduction to language and linguistics, 2nd ed. (pp. 249–286). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Ullman M.T. (2005). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on second language acquisition: The declarative/procedural model. In: Sanz C (ed) Mind and context in second language acquisition. (pp. 141–178). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Ullman, M.T. (2004). Contributions of memory circuits to language: the declarative/procedural model. Cognition, 92, 231-270. ↗︎ Online.

Ullman, M. T. (2001). A neurocognitive perspective on language: The declarative/procedural model. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 717–726.


The project aims to popularize and promote cognitive and neurocognitive sciences data
and reflections applied to L2 acquisition. We believe that this knowledge is necessary for L2
instructors to increase professional awareness by developing general principles that can guide
methodological decisions in everyday teaching practice in the post-method era.

The Virtual Laboratory (a MOOC-like resource) constitutes an open collection
of recorded videoconferences, where recognized experts in the field
share their ideas and findings on a topic and in a format of their choice.

The recorded videoconferences will be available at the webspace
of the Institute of Slavic Studies at the University of Heidelberg.
They will be accompanied by reflective activities for deeper
comprehension and by suggestions for further reading.

↗︎ Detailed project description

If you are interested in presenting a talk within the Virtual Laboratory,
please submit your proposal to: maria.bondarenko@slav.uni-heridelberg.de

Letzte Änderung: 20.08.2020