la joie de vivre

From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!


I’ve been reading An Introduction to Psycholinguistics edited by Geoffrey Leech and Mick Short just for funsies:

It explains some really interesting gems about language:

After the age of 12, fine-tuned motor skills decline. That’s one of the reasons you may hear so commonly that children are better at learning languages: they can much more easily learn “accentless” speech. Adults can learn and improve perceptual-motor skills, but pure motor skills are much easier to learn before 12 when our motor flexibility starts to decline.

By the age of 4, children already have a sense of how people react to specific languages, which in turn influences their motivation to learn, speak, and listen to another language. For example, my young cousins know that if they speak Chinese at the local restaurant and market, adults will instantly become nicer and often offer free food or treats. Because of that, they are much more willing to speak Chinese in those settings than if they were discouraged.

Infants, even as young as 3 days old, will recognize their mother’s voice. There is debate whether this is learned within the first 12 hours of birth or before — but because the fetus is in an amniotic sac, everything that it would hear (assuming that its ears are developed enough to hear well and transmit auditory information to the brain) would sound like the muffled noises you would hear if you were underwater in a swimming pool.

Parentese is a universal phenomenon; even older children naturally adapt their speech to talk to the young’uns. We all know it — that automatic switch to singsongy, higher pitched, coo-ing like simplified language whenever cute babies or toddlers are around. Studies have been done on “parentese” (named for being the language of parents) have found that it may be useful in teaching language to really young children. If you’re curious, here’s an interesting article about it!


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This entry was posted on March 17, 2012 by in General and tagged .
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