Kids, Language & Brains


Teachers or Audio/Video Recordings?

According to a recent news report, when song birds were exposed to new songs in recorded versions, they were unable to learn them.  However, they quickly learned the new songs when another song bird was brought in to serve as a model.  An interesting parallel was noted in Science Magazine:   Young children had no success learning another language when their exposure was limited to audio/video recordings.  As soon as they were able to work with a real teacher who could model the language for them, they learned with great ease and enthusiasm.  This makes it clear, once again, that what may work effectively for self-motivated adults is not comparable to what children need to make learning effective.


Babies: Wired for Music, Math, Language and Emotions

A baby's brain is a work in progress, trillions of neurons waiting to be wired into a mind.  The experiences of childhood, pioneering research shows, help form the brain's circuits--for music and math, language and emotion.

Skill:  language development.   What we know: circuits in the auditory cortex, representing the sounds that form words are wired by age one.  The more words a child hears by age two, the larger his/her vocabulary.

What parents can do to help develop this skill:  Talk to your child, a lot!  If you want him/her to master a second (or third, etc.) language, introduce it by age of ten.  Hearing problems can impair the ability to match sounds to letters.  Protect hearing by treating ear infections promptly.

From "Your Child's Brain," Sharon Begley


Children: language learning machines

At birth, no matter where babies are being reared, they already distinguish very fine differences in language, and they're sensitized to the sounds of language and universally so.  We like to say babies are born citizens of the world.  These infant citizens of the world are ready to learn any language they hear, but as early as six months old, they start to specialize.

Perhaps language gives us the best window into the young brain.  When it comes to language, most children are learning machines.  Children's brains are finely tuned to do this incredibly complicated thing called language development.

from "Grey Matters," a program on brain research sponsored by The Dana Foundation