Although research in the field of language teaching and learning has appeared to enhance classroom pedagogy, I argue here that these advances have had a relatively small impact on actual foreign language learning. Unlike in most school subjects, the recipients of language pedagogy, i.e. the students, arrive in the classroom with several predetermined advantages or impediments that have a mitigating influence on the effectiveness of teaching practices, and these are not generally considered in sufficient detail by language teaching research (LTR). Recently, however, new findings arriving from research in biological science, using equipment and techniques that penetrate the brain, are providing remarkable insights on how languages are learnt. This success from the laboratory is contrasted with the limited improvements resulting from traditional LTR based in the social sciences. Thus, I contend that research into how languages are best taught requires a more interdisciplinary approach that includes methods and instruments from the biological sciences. Copyright © 2014 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.