Dr Patricia Kuhl has more accolades and titles than Queen Victoria.  Among her many achievements and roles, she is a co-director at the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at Washington University.

Dr Kuhl studies early brain and language development – and by early, we mean really early.  Her research tells us a lot about language – and not just about the development of language in infants.  Watch her talk here:

Here are some of the key ideas we took away from Dr Kuhl’s talk:

  • To preserve a language, you need to speak it to babies, not adults. (This comment reminded us of Dr Pinker’s statement that linguists know a language is dead when it is spoken only by adults.)
  • A critical period exists for humans to acquire a new language efficiently – after 7 years of age, our ability to do so declines systematically.
  • Babies younger than 12 months old are “citizens of the world”: they can discriminate all the sounds in every language. Adults can’t do that. We’re “language-bound” to our mother tongue (or mother tongues for bilingual children).
  • As babies listen to their parents, they are (unconsciously) taking statistics on the speech sounds used by their parents. At around 1 year of age, babies gradually lose their ability to discriminate all speech sounds in all languages and zero in on the speech sounds used in their home language(s).
  • By exposing US-born babies to Mandarin spoken by a Mandarin-speaking therapist for short periods during the first year of birth, babies of English-speaking parents maintained their ability to discriminate speech sounds native to Mandarin speakers.
  • Interestingly, results were not as favourable when the children were exposed to an audio recording in Mandarin or by watching TV.  It seems the presence of a real human being is required – food for thought in these days of iPads and Nickelodeon.
Banter Speech & Language Banter Speech & Language
Banter Speech & Language is an independent firm of speech pathologists for adults and children. We help clients in our local area, including Concord, Rhodes, Strathfield and all other suburbs of Sydney’s Inner West.

Banter Speech & Language is owned and managed by David Kinnane, a Hanen- and LSVT LOUD-certified speech-language pathologist with post-graduate training in the Spalding Method for literacy, the Lidcombe and Camperdown Programs for stuttering, and Voicecraft for voice disorders. David is also a Certified PESL Instructor for accent modification.

David holds a Master of Speech Language Pathology from the University of Sydney, where he was a Dean’s Scholar. David is a Practising Member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email