Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baby Talk

There has been an interesting piece circulating about an MIT scientist who recorded over 90,000 hours of video of his son learning language and his study of that process. If you have a new child or are just interested in learning more about the amazing feat of learning a new language, it is certainly worth a read.

One of the most interesting revelations of the study was that:

“Caregiver speech dipped to a minimum and slowly ascended back out in complexity.” In other words, when mom and dad and nanny first hear a child speaking a word, they unconsciously stress it by repeating it back to him all by itself or in very short sentences. Then as he gets the word, the sentences lengthen again. The infant shapes the caregivers’ behavior, the better to learn.

UPDATE----------- 3/10/2012--------------------------------------------

I already love TED talks as evidenced by the rest of this post, so I was very happy to see the researcher I just mentioned above, Deb Roy, is on the most recent Ted talk discussing the very study mentioned above. Check it out... simply fascinating:


It's amazing to me that not only our children's learning is highly advanced, but our methods of teaching... not too shabby either. This is very interesting and dovetails nicely with the TED talk below in which Patricia Kuhl discusses how babies learn language and what age and exactly how the human interactions pertaining to language during those periods are so important. Television or audio only do not provide the environment for the super learning babies are capable of. The knowledge we hold regarding infant learning and brain development is astounding... I intend to use this knowledge for the betterment of any other children we have and plan to help J Bean now by introducing her to a new language before her ability to learn new languages begins to taper off though we have already missed the window for "wiring" her brain to excel in the differing sounds of foreign languages. This is certainly not to say she can't still learn a new language and learn the native sounds/pronunciation, but the sounds would have been easier for her to discern and to learn had we exposed her to another language earlier according to the video.

If you made it this far, you are really bored or very interested in the workings of baby brains... I am too! What an amazing mechanism humans have for learning, its almost as interesting to hear how it works as it is to watch it unfold in your own child. Below Michael Merzenich discusses the wiring (or rewiring) of the human brain that makes the learning we heard about earlier, as it relates to language possible. His discussion of learning disabilities is interesting as he describes what sounds a lot like the GIGO concept (garbage in, garbage out) as it relates to children's perception of sounds and how they learn languages and ultimately learn. Hearing problems result in children with native languages of "muffled English" or "degraded Japanese" for example... and how brain (language processing) problems can result in children who have a native language that is "noisy" or degraded as well.

From there, I just continued down the rabbit-hole of brain mechanisms and workings. I think I've already gone over-board for one post, but if you are interested in more I also found a few other related talks here and here. I find this subject fascinating and I'm sure I will revisit in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment