Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Children and Languages

Okay, I have a kid, and I grew up in a *really* multilingual environment, which makes this AP story interesting. As a kid myself, I grew up in a language soup of Marathi, Hindi, English, Konkani, and Kannada, and as an adult in Fortran, Octave, and C++.

For those, who hate to read here are some interesting tidbits:

Kuhl offers an example: Japanese doesn't distinguish between the "L" and "R" sounds of English — "rake" and "lake" would sound the same. Her team proved that a 7-month-old in Tokyo and a 7-month-old in Seattle respond equally well to those different sounds. But by 11 months, the Japanese infant had lost a lot of that ability.


It's remarkable that babies being raised bilingual — by simply speaking to them in two languages — can learn both in the time it takes most babies to learn one. On average, monolingual and bilingual babies start talking around age 1 and can say about 50 words by 18 months.

I haven't looked at the original research yet, and know the perils of ordinary journalists reporting on science stories, largely because the article (unlike well-written technical documents) does not properly link the sources.

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