Friday, February 10, 2012

Learning Language

Some exciting new research has come out recently about the way infants learn language. In the past, experts suggested that infants learn how to talk by listening to those around them. However, a recent two-year study on language acquisition in infants indicated, for the first time, that infants learn how to talk by listening and looking. Check out some of this research and see what you think.
  • Listening & Looking: David J. Lewkowicz, Ph.D., and Amy Hansen-Tift, a doctoral student, showed some under-one-year-old infants videos of women who could be seen and heard talking. The infants’ behavior patterns led the researchers to conclude that learning to speak is multisensory rather than auditory only. This Florida Atlantic University study was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • A note: Karen Nemeth, consulting Editor and Dual Language Learning Advisor at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, questions Dr. Lewkowicz and Hansen-Tift’s conclusion. She states concern because their conclusion is drawn using data collected solely from babies who are watching a video.
  • Babies Keep Tabs: Nemeth recommends research offered by Patricia Kuhl, Ph.D., in The Linguistic Genius of Babies. Dr. Kuhl provides data that show under-one-year-old infants reacting very differently to video language as opposed to language provided in interactions with responsive adults. Dr. Patricia Kuhl is Co-Director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, Director with the NSF, Science of Learning Center and Professor in the Department of Speech & Hearing Sciences at UW. Her 10-minute presentation can be found at:
In the meantime, enjoy the little ones around you by showing them lots of smiles and face-to-face interaction!

Mollie HM Willis, MS Curriculum & Instruction, guest blogger

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