Human Interaction Crucial to Language Learning
A word of caution for parents wanting to offer their child the advantages of early language learning: Studies have shown that human interaction is crucial for language learning to take place!
Multilingual Abilities at Birth
Babies are born with the innate ability to reproduce sounds in all languages. But at the age of 6 months they begin to discard those sounds not needed to decode and reproduce their own language.
By the time they have reached 12 months of age, they are no longer able to distinguish the nuances of sounds that are not relevant to their native tongue.
Interaction with Native Speakers Helps
However, a study undertaken of 9- to 10-month old infants by the University of Washington’s Dr. Patricia Kuhl showed that interaction with native speakers of the language can help. Those infants and toddlers who played with and/or were read to by native speakers of a foreign language were able to keep the window open for foreign language acquisition.
A Language Learning Tool to Share via Human Interaction
The picture book and audio CD, Bun E. Learns to Count in French (Bun E. apprend à compter), is narrated in English and French by native speakers of each language. The bright colors and multi-sensory experience resonate with children and their parents alike as they share the joy of language.
It appears that human interaction is intimately linked with linguistic development.
An unexpected finding was that the foreign language exposure via TV or audio tapes did not result in learning with this age group. It is not enough to simply put your baby or toddler in front of the television or a video. Human interaction is crucial to language learning!
For more information on this subject, please consider our article about the Sensitive Period for Language Learning.
Source: This content was originally published in our quarterly newsletter, Bun E. Tales, Vol. I, Issue 2 and is reprinted here with permission.