The mechanics and science behind language learning

Now I’m sorry but this is going to be a slightly technical article based on neuroscience and psychology but I believe if we understand the underpinnings of how we learnt and the children of the world learn their first language then this will be able to empower us to learn any language that we wish to in our adult lives.

For those including myself who wonder why everyone in the world talks to a baby in a very babyish manner. It is because that babies become very disinterested in normal speech very quickly. To anyone who has children or been in contact with them this may seem obvious but the why is the interesting bit here. Neuroscientists conducted experiments using the latest brain scanning techniques on young children assisted by paediatricians and they found that the pitch, the rhythm and the sound was what the babies were responding to. If it was slow, repetitive and lyrical then it kept there attention hence lullabies work. However, normal speech is rather flat and unemotional as we tend not to accent our words. Especially not in English, in our normal accent.

This is also why babies like music as it’s soothing to them and then like to dance. If we harness this native ability through song or movies then we are broadening our exposure to sounds that would not normally be part of our soundscape. Babies can distinguish the difference between all the sounds in the world and this is how they can learn any language of the world. This magical opportunity starts to be pruned back by 12 months as they are now learning what sounds make up their native language and to exclude all others. They still continue to about 8 years old to be easily pick up a language. Do not despair though due to recent advances in brain imaging and other experiments that have been exploring the human brain; they have found brand new neurons growing in adult brains. This previously undiscovered neurogenesis is astonishing as it demonstrates along with neuroplasticity the capability of the adult brain to change, regrow and develop in ways that were thought not possible until very recently. Therefore your brain is more malleable than you think it is. It is not set in stone when you become an adult. You can improve any of your previously learnt skills and learn new ones well into your later years.

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