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How does my baby learn language? Researchers weigh in

Have you ever wondered how infants advance so quickly when they start to speak? Or maybe why it’s so easy for children to learn new languages but so difficult for adults? Then please check out this talk by Dr. Patricia Kuhl, a professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington.


In this next video, Dr. Richard Aslin of the Yale Baby School and Haskins Laboratories breaks down some of Dr. Kuhl’s points. Dr. Aslin is one of the foremost figures in the field of statistical learning, especially as it relates to language acquisition.

Every single one of us engages in statistical learning, because we all unconsciously keep track of how often events occur and how these events are related to other events.  For example, when speech sounds occur in particular orders, they define the words of a language, and the order of these words define the rules of a language.  Babies are exceptional statistical learners, a fact that contributes to infants’ ability to, as Dr. Kuhl states, “master what sounds are used in their language” during the first critical period of language development. In this video, Dr. Aslin sheds more light upon babies’ abilities to identify subtle differences between sounds, the exceptional nature of bilingual babies, and the wide array of brain imaging methods that now allow us to understand more about the ways infants learn.



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