The linguistic genius of babies

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Daedalus
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Joined: 26/11/2009 - 09:39
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The linguistic genius of babies

A very interesting 10 minute talk by Patricia Kuhl on the linguistic genius of babies.
http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies.html

A few pieces that you might not already be aware of regarding babies processing language.

Hopeful
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Joined: 02/12/2009 - 19:00
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That was really good and opens your mind to a lot of things to think about.

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Ummbintaini
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Joined: 01/12/2009 - 18:19
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:''( it wouldn't work!! I'll try again another time, my internet connection isn't terribly good, but it's cheaper than saudi telecom which is just as useless (cheap and useless beats expensive and useless)... *bangs head on screen*

I do believe that babies and young childrens brains are totally geared up for language acquisition, and I'd really love to watch the video!! We're encouraging our older daughter to learn French as a 3rd language now, just through acquisition and conversation (useful that my friend/colleague is Algerian, she already speaks to my daughter in Arabic, now we're adding some French conversation in as well, and my daughter can ask and answer a few simple questions in French already) and we're getting the French Muzzy DVDs for her soon. I think more parents should know about teaching languages to young children, and be able to get resources (free, preferably!!) to expose them to other languages, and schools and the national curriculum need to question the efficacy of waiting until children are practically in their teens before teaching other languages. They'd be better off introducing them in nursery school IMO. They do that in Wales; kids speak both English and Welsh at nursery and primary school, and learn to read and write in both langauges too. Those that don't speak Welsh at home pick it up quickly and become fluent.

I wonder what the limit is to how many languages you can learn at a young age. People in some parts of the world are always exposed to multiple langauges, for example in Algeria everyone grows up speaking Arabic and French, then they learn English at school. One woman I used to know spoke 4 languages by the time she was 5 (Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Slovakian). To be honest I think the main limiting factor is being able to maintain the use of the languages. I've met quite a few people who were bilingual as small children but who lost one of their languages through disuse. And there was that man who only spoke to his son in klingon, I can't remember if that was posted on this forum or another, his son didn't keep up the klingon because no-one spoke it apart from his father. (I presume his mother spoke to him in English otherwise I'd question the wisdom of raising your child to speak a fictional language that no-one speaks outside of star trek conventions)

So whatever languages you expose them to you'd need to ensure that they have opportunities to keep speaking them and hearing them, that to me seems more difficult than exposing them to the languages. Buying a Muzzy DVD and having the kids watch it is easy (unless they hate it lol that would stymie the plans somewhat) but finding French speakers for them to interact with on a regular basis would be a lot more difficult, though not impossible.

Hopeful
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Joined: 02/12/2009 - 19:00
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We spoke Irish at home as our first language, the nursery schools here take the children in at 2 so that they have maximum exposer to both languages. Irish language school always do alot better in exams leagues here and to me its because they are exposed to a lot more at a younger age.
Es had french classes when he was younger he took to them so easily, where as now that hes in secondary school his friends trying to put up languages at 12 are struggling with it.

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Ummbintaini
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Joined: 01/12/2009 - 18:19
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Big smile finally! I successfully downloaded and watched the video.... very interesting I'd really like to learn a lot more about their research. It's interesting about the babies learning to distinguish the sounds in their langauges, it explains why my students can't distinguish between p and b, and struggle with many vowels... well I already knew it was because those sounds aren't distinguished in Arabic (which has 10 more consonants than English but very few vowels and no p) but now I know why from a neurobiological perspective. I think though that you don't lose this ability completely, because my ability to distinguish the sounds in Arabic that are not in English has improved with time and exposure to Arabic.

jackmk2, I've heard teachers in Wales saying that you can tell whether a child is bilingual or monolingual by how quickly they learn French. It seems that being bilingual primes the brain for learning more languages. I'd be interested to see if there's any scientific research on that.

Hopeful
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Joined: 02/12/2009 - 19:00
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Im not sure if there is any scientific research to prove this but it would suggest that bilingual children's brains are more open to the learning of multiple languages as they are more aware of the different sounds around them so its easier for them to pick up things that around them, they as such more open.

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davelisa
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Joined: 31/01/2009 - 17:04
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My 3 year old is learning basic french in her playgroup, which I think is fantastic It's only 1/2 an hour a week and I'm amazed at how much she picks it up.

Have you seen this new programme out on cbeebies http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/games/#/lb/lingoshow/bigbugshow

We were looking at it tonight and she was repeating the words and when my mum came round she was telling my mum what some colours were in French.

I do think that in England the problem is we leave it too late to learn another languauge. Eleven is too old.

Hopeful
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Joined: 02/12/2009 - 19:00
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Ive never seen that before davelisa, its brilliant will definitely be letting dd have a wee look at this later.

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Ummbintaini
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Joined: 01/12/2009 - 18:19
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that game's fun Smile I played it, first of all to see if it's the right level for my daughter then out of sheer curiosity to see what all the words are in Mandarin. (I'll let her play with it later lol)