Monday, April 11, 2011

How and When Babies Learn Language

Patricia Kuhl's study on how and when babies learn language is fascinating.  Children are like sponges when it comes to language until they are 7 years old, and after that age our ability to acquire new languages plummets lower and lower.  This 10 minute video is worth the watch - it says 13 minutes, but the last 3 minutes are ads.  In my opinion, the most interesting part of the study showed that American babies exposed to Mandarin for 12 sessions were just as good at recognizing Mandarin as Taiwanese babies - BUT the Mandarin exposure had to be through a human being.  American babies exposed to Mandarin via television or audio learned nothing.  I believe that Henry has learned words via a Chinese DVD, but I suppose he's benefited from me speaking Mandarin to him and a Mandarin class we go to once a week.  His pronunciation is very natural compared to his classmates who don't hear Mandarin at home.  

A few weeks ago, Henry and I started a mom and tot class at Language Stars for Mandarin and he loves it.  He thrives in the small class setting, plus I get to practice my Mandarin too!  The class is conducted entirely in Mandarin.  We sing songs, use props, walk around, and even have snack time (Henry's favorite part of class).  I highly recommend Language Stars if it's in your budget and if you're willing and able to reinforce the language at home.  Henry has picked up Mandarin amazingly quickly.  Language Stars is a Chicago based company that has expanded to the Washington D.C. and New York City areas.  In the Chicago area, they offer multiple languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, German, French and Italian.

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