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  • English Conversation Classes: Language Learning and Children

    I have to admit, the topic of this TED Talk bothered me at first. Patricia Kuhl, in her TED Talk about language learning in infants, seems to say that if you haven’t started learning a language before you are one year old, you might as well give up. I’ve heard many people repeat this as a scientific fact, and I think it’s the reason a lot of people don’t even try to learn a language. It certainly irritates me as someone who is trying to learn Spanish as an adult, and teaching English classes to adults.

    I have personally met people who have begun learning a language later in life, and have become so fluent that native speakers of the language can barely detect their accent. Kuhl’s talk caused the same reaction in comments on the TED website.

    But I don’t think Kuhl’s main point was to make us adult language learners feel like our task is impossible. Rather, she wanted to show us the amazing abilities of the infant mind, and wonder out loud what we might someday learn from them.

    Why should you listen to Patricia Kuhl:

    English Conversation Patricia KuhlPatricia Kuhl is co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington. She’s internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development, and studies that show how young children learn. Kuhl’s work has played a major role in demonstrating how early exposure to language alters the brain. It has implications for critical periods in development, for bilingual education and reading readiness, for developmental disabilities involving language, and for research on computer understanding of speech.

    Below is the video of Kuhl’s TED Talk. If you like, you can watch the video and then take an English Conversation Class about it. We also offer English classes for children.

    1. What question does Kuhl use the Koro language to represent?
    2. What are the best ages, according to Kuhl, for learning a language?
    3. What special thing can babies do with sound?
    4. Because of this, what does Kuhl call babies?
    5. How long does this period last?
    6. What does Kuhl say babies are doing when they listen to people talk?
    7. What experiment did they do with the babies and Mandarin?
    8. What was the result?
    9. What does Kuhl hope her experiments will show us?
    10. Do believe that it is possible to become fluent in a language as an adult?