Patricia Kuhl discusses amazing discoveries about how babies and young children learn language. Professor Kuhl explains that language has a critical period for learning. Babies and children are geniuses until the age of seven, and then there is a decline. After a child goes through puberty, the universal listening skills are nonexistent. Kuhl refers to babies as “Citizens of the World”, which means that they can differentiate all the sounds of all languages. Adults are “culture bound” listeners. We are experts at the sounds of our native language but not foreign languages. Through her research, Professor Kuhl has discovered that there is a very crucial two month period during a child's language acquisition. When babies are listening to the production of speech, they are taking statistics on that specific language. These statistics being absorbed by the baby changes their brain. It changes them from universal listeners (or “Citizens of the World”) to culture bound listeners.
Professor Kuhl’s presentation was intriguing and her findings are truly extraordinary and quite interesting. She discovered through her research that babies brains will only take statistics when there is physical interaction with a human being. If language is presented to the child through television or audio, then there is no learning at all. An infant's social skills play an important role in learning. Even though the presentation was very thorough, there are still a few remaining questions that I have. Do all children learn at the same rate? What happens if a child does not learn a language before puberty?
Child language acquisition is a very
interesting and intriguing topic. I learned a lot about how children acquire language and I hope to further educate myself about the subject in the future.
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