The linguistic genius of babies: what does it mean for grown-ups?

“In investigating the child’s brain, we may be able to help keep our own minds open to learning for our entire lives”

Chinese tones are baffling to non-native speakers. While westerners marvel at how a seemingly small pitch change is enough to differentiate between words like “mother” and “horse”, Chinese natives get the giggles when expats get all nostalgic about their horse’s cooking. Notoriously difficult to master, these differences are often incredibly subtle to non-native ears. Yet native Mandarin speakers differentiate tones with the same ease as English speakers perceive consonant contrasts in words like punk and monk. This contrast is what’s known by linguists as a minimal pair (and by barbers as what saves Sid Vicious wannabes from walking around with an unfortunate bald patch). But why is it that minimal pairs which are so obvious to native speakers can be so troublesome, and at times downright embarrassing in a second language?

Studies of how babies learn to differentiate sounds in their mother tongue shed some light on the matter. Neuroscientist Patricia Kuhl explains how newborns are “citizens of the world” equipped to distinguish between all sounds in all languages, from English to Igbo. Between the age of 6 and 12 months, neural networks lock on to native sound patterns, preparing babies to become more effective communicators in their mother tongue. The downside of this neural commitment is that it leads to a decreased sensitivity of sound patterns in other languages.

So what does this mean for those who learn languages later in life? Do adult brains maintain enough plasticity to accommodate new languages, or are neural networks set in stone? Many studies indicate that some plasticity remains (e.g. Evans and Iverson 2003; Hazan et al. 2005; Kingston 2003), although the jury is still out on how much. We simply don’t know enough about the human brain to answer this question yet. However, Kuhl is optimistic that the dynamic field of neurolinguistics will one day provide us with a better understanding of how adults learn sound patterns in other languages.

It certainly seems that grown-ups get bit of a biological raw deal. Adults rarely attain native-like pronunciation, even after many years of living in an L2 speaking country (Harris 2010). Does this mean we should give up on pronunciation training, throw our IPA charts on to the fire and settle for a life of trying to guess if students are angry or hungry? Absolutely not. Iverson et al. (2005, 2011) demonstrate that targeted discrimination training is exactly what students need to improve their sensitivity to English sounds. The most successful techniques involve giving students repeated, focused exposure to sound contrasts (such as the vowels in sheep vs ship) with a variety of speakers in different contexts. This training has been shown to have a positive effect on both perception and production, suggesting that we can and should help students with targeted pronunciation exercises. Give students more practice. It might just save them from a lifetime of anxiety over asking for a “sheet” of paper lest they get the wrong vowel sound…

  • Why do you think some adults are better at “picking up” accents than others?
  • Do you think that pronunciation can be explicitly taught?
  • If you teach pronunciation, what sort of exercises do you do?
  • Do you have any suggestions about integrating discrimination training into lessons?

Evans, B. G., Iverson, P. (2007). Plasticity in vowel perception and production: A study of accent change in young adults. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 121(6)

Harris, K. (2010) Native English speakers’ production of Italian /t/: The extent of phonetic learning in adult second language acquisition and the effect of native speaker input. Leeds Working Papers 15 pp.40-73

Hazan, V. et al., 2004. Effect of intensive audiovisual perceptual training on the perception and production of the /l/-/r/ contrast for Japanese learners of English. Speech Communication, 47(3), p.360-378.

Iverson, P., Hazan, V. & Bannister, K., 2005. Phonetic training with acoustic cue manipulations: A comparison of methods for teaching English vertical bar r vertical bar-vertical bar l vertical bar to Japanese adults. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 118(5), p.3267-3278.

Iverson, P., Pinet, M., Evans, B. G. (2011). Auditory training for experienced and inexperienced second-language learners: Native French speakers learning English vowels. Applied Psycholinguistics

Kingston, J. (2003). Learning foreign vowels. Language and Speech, 46, 295–349.

http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies.html

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52 Comments

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52 responses to “The linguistic genius of babies: what does it mean for grown-ups?

  1. People fall abruptly silent and stare for a second when I say that I’m French. No one can ever tell. I think that some of the essential ingredients are a very good ear (just like music), being a good listener (paying attention to the sounds, lip-reading, making a conscious effort to notice and remember), a lot of patience with yourself and an eagerness to learn and be accurate. When still learning, I’d sometimes stop in mid-sentence to check the pronunciation of a word.

    I was also lucky to be introduced to the International Phonetic Alphabet quite early on, so I could check the pronunciation and stress of words with a dictionary and I started to notice patterns. I’d also listen to BBC4 and sit there, concentrating on the sounds and repeated words that seemed tricky until I could get close to getting it right.

    I’ve also often been told by friends that I was excellent at imitating (teachers’) voices :-) I’ve always been intrigued by sounds and enjoy making silly ones, so that might have kept my vocal folds flexible over the years!

    All in all, I think there is a lot to do with a personal attitude as well as whatever goes on in the brain or ear. As always, the learning is more important than the teaching. If you want to learn, you’ll find ways. Teaching is only there to support that willingness.

    • lizardyoga

      Yes, I think being a good listener and having a good ear are very important: I speak fluent French and near-fluent Spanish and I have been told my accent in both languages is very good. I used to mimic voices as a child as well. I think an intense interest in languages helps too. My partner always says that the best way to learn something is to be intensely uncomfortable not knowing it: and I am intensely uncomfortable if I’m travelling somewhere and I don’t speak the language, so maybe that’s the key

      • Agreed with the whole interest thing. And the mimicking thing too in fact. I am fascinated by accents and always have been. I used to always question my dad about what region of England a British sitcom character was from because I was so intrigued by the variety in the accents on British tv. And still am! I can put on a better LA accent than anyone I know. Which makes me think maybe the answer is not just in how people learn languages, but also how they are. The Good Language Learner has a personality and an attitude that suits language learning…

      • lizardyoga

        Yes, I think that’s true too. I used to teach English as a Foreign Language and I had one student who was a company director. He was very dictatorial towards his staff and though he was always polite to me he was unteachable because his inner attitude was one of not listening

      • lizardyoga

        It never ceases to amaze me how many accents we do have. When I lived in the North-west of England the accent in Wigan was totally different from Bolton, less than 20 miles away!

  2. Thank you for your comment Karine. I think it supports the idea that for adults, putting in conscious effort can produce great results!

    • Like Karine, I’ve always enjoyed imitating accents and voices, and this affinity has helped me in reproducing sounds in foreign languages that I’ve been learning. Is there a term for people like us who have such an inclination?

  3. Pingback: The linguistic genius of babies: what does it mean for grown-ups? « BackChannels

  4. I agree that it has a lot to do with how well you listen. People who are fascinated by language and linguistics (and particularly, phonetics) are more likely to succeed, because that interest will motivate them to really pay attention. I’ve been told I pronounce other languages very well. I’m also a singer (and avid lover of music in general), and an English/linguistics major. In my early twenties I studied the differences between Chaucer and Shakespeare and Eminem; between Italian and German and Russian; between Vancouver and Texas and Stirling.

    To be fair I should mention that I had an advantage in childhood as well; I went to a French-immersion school for kindergarten through grade two, so at age 7 I was fluent in French. I’m not any more, but I can still *pronounce* it fluently, and when I started studying it again in university, it came back relatively easily. But K-2 is still much older than the babies you’re talking about, so perhaps adults aren’t a hopeless cause. This Christmas when I went to Mexico for the first time, I was able to conduct basic conversations in Spanish within a week (side note: you get stronger drinks when you at least make an attempt to order in Spanish. Bonus points for ordering Spanish-named drinks like Cuba Libre).

    • You were still in the ago of ‘acquisition’ in K-2. Although the filtering process in babies switches off early it is still there. If you are interested in this you might find some of the iTunesU lectures on this interesting, Dr Patsy Lightbrown’s talk called ‘Easy as Pie’ the myth of Child Language Acquisition is very enlightening as are the Talks by Professor Dr. Alexander Bergs

  5. Very interesting post. It’s a topic I think about a lot. I guess your ability to accurately pronounce a language you’re learning as an adult depends very much on the individual and also on what language you’re coming from. As a native German speaker, the two different “i” sounds in “sheet” and “shit” pose no problem, because German also has these two distinct sounds. I live in Spain, and differentiating them causes my Spanish friends no end of trouble. I don’t know whether they don’t hear the difference, or whether they just can’t remember which words feature what sound. I, on the other hand, have a big problem with the rolled “rr”. I can hear the difference between “r” and “rr” just fine, but struggle to reproduce the latter.

    I totally get why it’s hard to fabricate sounds that don’t exist in your native language. Spanish has 5 vowel sounds and English 20 – so that is quite a challenge.

    What I find much more difficult to understand, however, is why Spanish people tend to cut the consonants off the end of words. New York becomes New Yor. “Word, “work”, “worse” all morph into “wor”. They can pronounce these terminal consonants perfectly, but they just don’t bother.
    English speakers learning German tend to pronounce the German “z” like an English one, although the German “z” sound does exist in English, e.g in the phrase “what’s that?” the “t’s” part hits it perfectly.

    It’s all fascinating… ;-)

  6. Thanks for introducing me to this blog, which I am now following.

    If adults vary widely in their capacity to replicate foreign accents, I attribute it to a) variations in sound perception and b) differences in how much people care about sounding authentic (which could be an offshoot of a) ). Just as some people have perfect musical pitch, some people have near-perfect perception of language sounds. In reproducing these sounds, they’re only limited by the range of their tongue movements (which may be slightly restricted in adulthood). Other people can’t hear the subtleties and, as a corollary, don’t care about them.

    Gabrielle

  7. I often find that the majority of adults I teach at advanced level here in Spain have no idea of how to distinguish between the simplest of vowel sounds when they are called into question, yet when they use them in natural speech they are usually pronounced correctly. I my class of 17/18 year olds why they thought this was and they attributed it to MTV!

    So that makes me wonder whether textbook pronunciation exercises serve to enhance students’ speech or only confuse matters and potentially disrupt their fluency when speaking, for fear of mispronouncing a fairly inconsequential vowel sound (though I see your point with the ‘sheet’ example!) So now I tend to focus on song activities that contextualise sound patterns, without paying too much attention to phonetic transcription.

    MTV may show shockingly bad television, but at least it counts for something!

  8. Fascinating post. My experience suggests that targeted discrimination can work but affective filters (according to Kraschen, factors such as motivation, attitude etc.) often diminish the effectiveness of this approach.

    One activity which seems to help in lowering these filters is getting students to listen and then practice performing mini-dialogues of 3 or 4 lines. I take these from movies or TV shows and let them watch the clip 2 or 3 times, hand them the dialogue and analyse word & sentence stress, intonation etc. Do a choral drill then let them practise in pairs. While they are doing this, I can walk around and note any issues which I can deal with later on. Getting students out of their chairs seems to really help.

    I also live and work in Spain and I found Josh’s comment about MTV really interesting. Only in the last few years have Spanish actually been exposed to the sound of English as, generally,everything is dubbed into Spanish here. When I compare the pronunciation of a typical Spanish speaker from Spain to that of a Latin American (I lived in Ecuador), the difference is remarkable and I attribute this, to a large extent, to the fact that Latin Americans generally watch movies in the original language.

    http://tefltrainerspain.com/

    • I find it a bit baffling what you say about Latin-Americans, dilano. I met a handful of English teachers from thereabouts nearly 20 years ago at a summer course, and what I found outstanding was that hardly anyone form Europe was able to understand what a Mexican, Argentinian or Brazilian colleague wanted to say. Very distorted pronunciation was their most distinguishing feature.

  9. pessimisticmom

    Thanks for the interesting topic – I can certainly relate to this post (as well as the comments from the rest) in terms of learning language. Our national education stress the importance of both English and our mother tongue in order to be effectively bilingual, so we get to learn 2 languages at one go since young. Teachers and parents uses the languages interchangeably to reinforce learning 2 languages together, which may work well for nouns and verbs. When it comes to full sentences, it goes back to the respective classes due to the differences in grammatical rules.

    When I was learning Japanese as an adult, my sensei introduced us to the language through songs and poetry. As for sentence structure, it’s through comics and short articles about the country, so that we get to learn not just the language but also appreciate the culture. Summing up my experience, I think that while learning languages at a young age helps to build the foundation and bridges communication, it becomes more like a compulsory act which sometimes may be met with resistance; whereas learning languages as an adult makes one more willing to pick up the language to appreciate the beauty of the language itself. The most important thing in learning any languages is the opportunity to practice it, as well as the guts to use it. Never mind how broken we might sound, at least it’s an effort well done.

    By the way, I forgot to mention that I’m a Chinese. So I was really laughing out loud on the note you made about “mother” and “horse”….*LOL* . That’s probably the beauty of Mandarin, where with a twist in tone and pitch, a single sound “ma” can coin up a sentence that says “mom scolding the horse”.

  10. I live the ‘maa’ challenge everyday in Thailand, also home to a tonal language where maa can mean ‘come’, ‘dog’, and ‘horse’. Add to the fact I tried to say dog-shop for pet shop, well I can assure you, I am at least providing good entertainment for the locals.

    I do chalk quite a bit of it up to genetics. I come from a very musical family and have always unconsciously mimicked the accent of whoever I am speaking with. I’ve noticed that musical friends tend to be better at picking up accents. Of course I believe that will and hard work will get you a long way. My major achilles heel is that I simply cannot roll the spanish ‘R’, which is a serious bummer since I am married to a Mexican and have many latino friends.

    Sometimes I also wonder if it was an evolutionary advantage. Back in the day when you were traveling far afield, the ability to blend in and mimic might help you. Just a thought.

    Enjoyed this article. Definitely sharing with my community.

  11. Thanks for your comments everyone, you’ve raised some really interesting points here. So to sum up, Karine, Steph, Ladyofthecakes, Gabrielle and Cordelia attributed individual variation in adult L2 pronunciation to a difference in aptitude, or having “an ear” for languages. Pessimisticmom and Karine also recognised the role of motivation. Ladyofthecakes commented on native langauge interference: contrasts which don’t exist in L1 are often more difficult to master in L2. While the general consensus seems to be that explicit pronunciation training can make a positive contribution, Josh and Dilano were careful to point out the potential risks of damaging students confidence, and the importance of presenting these tasks in context. Dilano gave us an excellent example of how he does this in the classroom.

    Great work everyone, we look forward to hearing your contributions on the next post!

  12. I am a non – linguist who has a hard time telling differences between two accents. I am an exchange student from India, currently studying in Toronto. As I interacted with people from different countries and ethnicities, I was ‘overwhelmed’ during my first month of stay here. But after three months, I have begun to enjoy the cultural diversity. As a budding journalist and blogger, here is an account of an ESL student’s life in Toronto – http://mumbaimasaala.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/if-you-ignore-my-accent-you-will-hear-my-story/

  13. Fascinating read, fascinating site! This is my first visit here, but it won’t be my last. BTW, thanks for visiting my neighborhood.

  14. It is interesting to note that the manipulation of the vocal apparatus is integral in language learning but also in singing. In particular I am thinking of my experience learning Mandarin Chinese. I had been singing in choirs and taking voice lessons at the college level for a few years and in those contexts I had spent a great deal of time learning to intentionally manipulate the various anatomical elements of vocal production (see http://singingvoicetraining.com/the-singers-circuit-for-resonant-sound/). In chinese class, many of my classmates and I struggled to pronounce the chinese word for man, ren, because it contained an odd r sound (see http://translate.google.com/#en/zh-CN/man). Fortunately for me, my voice teacher had already encountered this sound and was able to use our vocabulary from voice lessons to communicate the right way to make the sound. So that was helpful but this is cool. Once I got the sound down, I learned how to overtone sing. That is, I learned that the mouth shape required for ren was the same basic shape for Khoomei Tuvan throat singing (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuvan_throat_singing).

  15. anelim

    Very interesting blog, will be reading here regularly! Glad you came by my blog so I could find it. Keep up the good work. I support your call for more time for (reading AND conducting AND writing) research.

  16. After learning Dutch for 3 years, being a native English/Mandarin speaker, I must say: its actually easier to learn now then when I was young, because I know what grammar actually is and know how to look for it. Took me some time to distinguish between very similar pronunciations and speak strange sounding words, but I think it has more to do with my reflexive rejection of unusual sounding pronunciations than my adult inability to do it.
    Thanks for following my blog!

  17. Love this post. Reminds me of when I studied linguistics, language acquisition in children was one of my favourite sections. Apparently after seven years of age it isn’t that easy to pick up a language. It’s really fascinating. I’m hoping that one day my kids will pick up the languages I speak as well as arabic from my husband. Would be so cool, haha.

  18. I studied French and in the beginning it wasn’t that easy in terms of the accent, especially pronouncing the ‘R’ but I love the language and eventually it became pretty easy. My french accent is a lot better than my afrikaans one, and afrikaans is the language my family speaks so…lol, go figure. It’s probably determination and if we really want to learn rather than being forced,

  19. Interesting article… I’m a native English speaker who studied French at university while living in France. When I arrived I had and A-level in French and a very obvious English accent, but now the Parisians believe that I’m French… until I make a small mistake.
    This is invariably followed by an odd look and the question “Are you Belgian?”
    So by the time I picked up the accent I was an adult, which implies that it’s still possible to sound like a native speaker after childhood. However, this was almost total emersian in the language, which I personally believe is vital to becoming fluent and to gaining the accent.

    Now I’m living in Russia and trying to learn the language – with a French accent! Both English and French are very tonal – they rise and fall within a sentence, but Russian is a lot more monotonal, which can make it difficult to understand them and for them to understand me.

    As an English teacher, I like to use the phonemic script to teach my students the pronounciation of words. It took a while to get them to remember the symbols, but now i can transliterate a word and they pronounce it easily. There are still problems with ship vs sheep, but I’ve found that in all languages.

    But there are some words in Russian that I can pronounce almost without an accent. I think it depends on the level of immersian, your ‘ear’ for languages, and the ability to absorb the things your hear and see, even if its just a snippit of conversation on the street.

  20. jmmacookiemonster

    Fascinating! I am actually currently writing a linguistics report on the correlation between first language and mathematics ability. Perhaps when you have a chance (and when I get a chance to post it) you will drop by my blog and check it out and give me some feedback? =)

  21. Oh, minimal pairs. I can fake minimal pairs when I’m talking (such as 7a and ha in Arabic or ph and p in Hindi), but even though I can make the sounds right myself and can tell the difference when I say it, for some reason I can’t HEAR them that well.

    I also have this issue where, when learning to differentiate between minimal pairs in another language, I get massive spill-over. For example, when learning to differentiate between aspirated ph and non-aspirated p, suddenly I was using the non-aspirated p in all my English words, which just sounds funny — especially when you order a peppermint mocha!

  22. Great article. As a non native english speaker, I have to leave a comment :-)
    May I also recommend a book? Maybe it’s of interest for you as well. I read “The articulate mammal” by Jean Aitchison, it’s an introduction to psycholinguistucs with topics like
    * language within an evolutionary frame
    * accquisition of verbs
    * construction and cognitive grammar
    and also about loosing the language through Aphasia and Dementia.
    The learning and imprinting of language starts before the baby is even born. I found that very impressive and it is also explaining why it is harder to learn other languages…
    I envy all people who grow up with two languages and speak both of them fluently., They are ahead of everybody else regarding language knowledge!

  23. This was really interesting! What is your opinion about learning three langauges at once?

  24. Pingback: LINKS « Learnlanguagefabien : Be Actor !

  25. This is an interesting thread & especially for me who has learnt another language as an adult. I began to study Swedish as a 19 year old and learnt it according to my friends “fast”. for me it was snail paced learning (am a fast learner in other areas). Nevertheless, I learnt that living with native speakers is a good strategy to learning a language. The chances of learning the “right” pronunciation improve as I was forced to listen to the language a whole deal even before I began to say my first words. I also know now that the Swedish vowels ä, ö, å, and especially the Ö make a mess of my pronunciations; a lot! This is, I think, because I never had heard these sounds before and it is a new kind of toning using the tongue which I don’t have from my previous languages.

    I took the chance and studied my bachelors in Swedish though and it went well while at the same time improving my writing and speech even more. And learning new formal languages such as Java, html & C-Sharp did not hurt!

    Interesting thread!

  26. Fabulous article – love the humor! I’m obsessed with language these days, and this had some great info in it.

    Blessings,
    Alyson (Your latest follower)

  27. Interesting article,
    I agree that it is bit like music. One has to have a good ear to excell in pronunciation. I have realized that some people are good at pronouncing the words but fail to the right pitch or intonation. Besides having a good ear for language, one must also work hard to overcome his/her weaknesses. One thing that helps me is listening to podcasts, news, and other samples of language.

    I do believe that making learners aware of minimal pairs and getting them to repeat them is helpful. However, this is just a step for building awareness of these subtle differences. A lot of work should be done by learners as they move forward in second language acquisition.

    Thanks a lot for bringing such a relevant issue for discussion.

  28. Pingback: The linguistic genius of babies: what does it mean for grown-ups? | Halina's Blog

  29. This one is also very interesting, about how twins develop an autonomous language:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3434134.
    Also, I don’t know if anyone can suggest good links to sites about how adults seemingly grasp etymology very quickly in a foreign language, eg Polish Prince (książę), Priest (ksiądz), Moon (księżyc), and book (książka).

  30. I imagine that would come under the field of psycholinguistics, and theories of how the mind deals with similar words. You could have a look at the “Neighbourhood Activation model” which states that similar words are more easily processed. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0749596X89900090. I haven’t been able to find anything specific to adult second language acquistion yet, but I imagine there is a body of research which deals with this kind of thing. Are there any psycholinguists out there who can point us in the right direction?

  31. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for introducing me to yours – very interesting. I spent a couple of decades as a translator and interpreter, and am still amused by the difference between my non-native German (learned at age 18), which is good enough for me to asked in which town in northern Germany I was raised – and my French, which after 18 years in the country is still sadly more American than anything else. Learned it too late.

  32. Fluid Spanish

    Thank you for following my blog. I hope to grow it even more after graduating from my MAT in Spanish in May. This was a great post! I look forward to seeing more of what you write in the future.

    Saludos,

    Fluid Spanish

  33. Thank you for the interesting article. As a native Russian speaker who immigrated to the US at the age of 12, I speak English with almost no accent. However, I found that being away in college and having no one to speak Russian to (we speak only Russian among family members), I started to develop an accent in Russian.
    To those of you who cannot pronounce the rolled R, I can tell you that even some native Russian speakers cannot do it. I heard that it has to do with the physiology of the tongue, perhaps having mild ankyloglossia.

  34. Manu

    Thanks for following my blog. This is a great article. My personal experience with this accent thing is very similar to other people’s comments. I moved from Colombia to the US when I was quite young and I have no accent in either language. I also studied Mandarin Chinese for a little over 2 years and found that I didn’t have as much trouble with pronuncation as my classmates, I always wondered if it was because I was already fluent in another language…

  35. I am not so sure of the ankyloglossia argument. My daughter has tongue tie, but rolls her r’s beautifully. I on the other hand struggle and can only produce a small rolled r after days and weeks of practise. Neither of us grew up in a house where rolled r ‘s were spoken. I think the listening component in learning sounds that was previously mentioned is so important. Exposure to new sounds and pronunciations, whether temporary or permanent increases our chances of reproducing it. I find I need to get my “ear” in when hearing foreign languages, and this takes a while. It also applies to hearing what very young children are saying. It takes time to tune into their particular baby accent, even though they are speaking my own native language. LIstening carefully is definitely a key. Thanks for a great post. This subject interests me greatly.

  36. Language learning is a hot topic with many different opinions – thanks for visiting my blog.

  37. I think part of it is having a good ear. I have used music endlessly as practice for not only familiarising myself with ‘the sound’ of Spanish but also to sing along in the car and get more confident with pronunciation. I have had native speakers here in New Zealand ask me where I’m from during conversation in Spanish because they did not realise I’m a local.
    I am someone who is quite open to the concept of innateness TO AN EXTENT, in that I believe that for authentic pronunciation to occur there needs to be an already present capacity for this as well as hard work and a listening ear. Some of the adults I teach can get a Spanish word after repeating it several times after me, but that is not to an authentic level so much as an acceptable level (from being previously unintelligible). They particularly struggle with vowels as in Spanish they are the same (more or less) in every position, while in English we read a vowel and pronounce it differently depending on the word. It’s important to reject everything you think you know about they way things should be pronounced based on your first language. You have to start again. Some adults find this really hard. But some, like me, don’t find it hard it all. That’s why I think innateness must play some role in it.

  38. Oh, this was a very interesting read. I think adults can definitely pick up languages later in life and acquire a decent accent, but I think it is very related to an ear for music. This is probably nothing new. It has something to do with skills of mimicry, I’m almost absolutely certain. I thought that the other thing that determines how naturally one acquires a L2 as an adult is having heard the language before the age of six. I can’t remember the developmental rationale, but it must be related to what happens between the ages of 6mth and 1yr.

  39. Wow, Bravo! It’s all fascinating. I enjoyed reading over this valuable article.

  40. Thank you, I get a lot of parents that are at a total loss as to what benefit there is of reading to a baby. I am often too shocked to give a diplomatic answer, so I have linked to your blog from my facebook page (britishbookbuddy), hope that is ok, your post explains it brilliantly!

  41. What a brilliant video showing the research on language development!
    I can’t wait to share it with my offspring! Thank you for following my blog!

  42. cslb

    Reblogged this on cslb.

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