The amazing abilities of babies learning languages

by | Feb 3, 2013 | Babies, Being the parent in a multilingual family, Bilingual benefits, Only happens to a bilingual | 0 comments

The amazing abilities of babies learning languages

Today I want to share with you a talk by Patricia Kuhl, Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington. It is a fascinating insight into how small babies pick up distinct features of a language. The talk only lasts about ten minutes so won’t take up much of your precious time. Oh and yes, she may be a professor but knows how to present in a way that we all can enjoy.

Note that at about one and a half minutes into the video, you will see a graph that you need to take with a pinch (or even tablespoon) of salt. The graph does not mean that your future as a language learner is behind you at the age of 40! It’s just that the probability that you will sound like a native speaker in a new language is ‘Low’ rather than ‘High’.

Isn’t it wonderful that the infant brain can pick up distinct aspects of a language just by spending time with someone speaking it? It is however important to note that a child will not get this sensitivity about a language just by passively watching a TV programme in the language. Human interaction is vital.

What is definitely true though is that it is overall easier to pick up a language at an early age and that after about 16 years of age, it requires much more effort. What better incentive for us parents to make sure that we expose our children to languages early on!

Enjoy the talk and may the peace and power be with you!


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