PDF The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World

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Draws on cutting-edge scientific findings to address key issues about language development, demonstrating how human beings are born with an innate ability to speak any language but customize their communication abilities to accommodate the language that they hear. Contents Ch. The greatest intellectual feat Ch. Mission improbable Ch. Silent rehearsals Ch.

the benefit

Wuckoo Ch. World factory Ch. Colorless green ideas Ch. Twenty questions Ch. The superiority of the German language Epilogue : the infinite gift. Notes Bibliography, p. Also available on the internet. Includes bibliographical references pages and index. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Griffith University Library. Open to the public.

Debate about the Nature of Language Acquisition

La Trobe University Library. Borchardt Library, Melbourne Bundoora Campus. Open to the public ; Macquarie University Library. More particularly, Dr.


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Bialystok and her team found the advantage in literacy bilingual children possessed was due to two specific effects of bilingualism, effects—a greater "metalinguistic awareness" and an ability to transfer reading skills and principles from one language to another. In the York University team's report, titled "Bilingualism, Biliteracy, and Learning to Read: Interactions among Languages and Writing Systems," the first advantage bilingual students possessed is described as "a general understanding of reading and its basis in a symbolic system of print.

This general understanding can be acquired in any writing system and gives children an essential basis for learning how the system works and how the forms can be decoded into meaningful language.

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This sensitivity can be transferred to reading as the child learns to associate the letters in print with sounds. As Dr. Bialystok says, "Really, its all about decoding ability. These children can more quickly grasp the concept that letters make sounds. They realize that this same concept can be applied to both languages, and suddenly a light goes on. It's a transferable set of strategies and expertise.

The general sensitivity to language is often called "metalinguistic awareness.


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The important part is the added awareness of language itself, an effect which Dr. Bialystok sums up as "the knowledge of two languages is greater than the sum of its parts. The second advantage the York University team found was "the potential for transfer of reading principles across the languages," or the likely possibility that children will take the methods and insights they've built up in one language and apply them to advance much more rapidly in the other language. In other words, they don't have to relearn the concept of an alphabet in English if they've been taught it already in French.

In the study, the bilingual children were all learning to read in both languages at the same time, and Dr. Bialystok and her team thought it might be the additional practice of learning to read that accounted for the bilingual children's advantage. But the results surprisingly showed that the bilingual kids' advantage was independent of instruction time in the other language.

The key was not so much how many hours were spent practicing as the ability the other language gave them to combine their insights and strategies. The York University team credited this as "the additional advantage of applying the concepts of reading that they learn to their two languages, enhancing both and boosting their passage into literacy.

A child just setting out to learn a new language also learns many new things about how languages work. For many older kids, knowledge of English grammar is commonly solidified by learning a foreign language.

English grammar may seem natural to us and we hardly think about it—that is, until we encounter the grammar of another language. The quirks and oddities of our own language pass by without our notice until we see something different that heightens our awareness of how our first language works and requires at least a moment of reflection. At a young age, these insightful discoveries happen quickly, as a child's speech and thoughts evolve from simple expressions of needs to colorful and dramatic retellings of events overflowing with new and descriptive vocabulary.

Learning another language brings a new dimension to these insightful discoveries of childhood, broadening your child's experiences and encouraging him to take hold of language in a new way. A number of factors influence anyone's success at mastering a new language. Such a complex process necessarily has many contributing causes and elements.

Studies in Pessimism by Arthur Schopenhauer

However, we have seen three factors repeated time and again in the advice and the research surrounding second language learning—immersion, consistency and an early start. These three aspects of the language-learning process are the key for your child to secure a strong foundation for acquiring a second language and grow into it enjoyably and productively. Immersion : An immersive environment is critical for learning a language quickly and in a manner which lasts. Immersion means all or nearly all the verbal—auditory or visual—inputs you receive are in the language you are trying to learn, from simple directions to answers to your questions.

Immersion is therefore very different from what most of us have experienced, usually a classroom where promptings in English were the ready answers if we stumbled over our new words or sentences. Immersion seems like it could be too ambitious for a child, but being immersed in a language is good because it encourages you to notice all forms of communication, including non-verbal ones like body language or pictorial signs, and to engage a number of different parts of your brain simultaneously.

It encourages you to drop the habit of forming your thoughts in your native language, translating them, and then trying to get them out of your mouth in one piece. Wouldn't it be simpler just to think in your new language? And if you think that may be too much for children, remember that they didn't learn their first language in any other manner. Immersion is important because it teaches children the value of context.

Language occurs in context, and learning how to "read" context is as important as learning how to read words. This is true not just for writing and for speaking, but for listening and following directions, learning new things, and the long and wonderful process of mastering a language. Consistency : Consistency, meaning a persistent exploration of language, is the second key to language-learning because the process of getting familiar with a language is a lot like becoming familiar with a city or town—a friendly one, to be sure, with lots of playgrounds.

As in getting to know a city, exploring a language only every once in a while doesn't get you very far. Knowing a few main avenues may be helpful and may get you around alright, but only consistent travel through the many neighborhoods and side streets of a city will give you access to the best routes and the hidden gems of the area. Without consistent exploration, you can feel turned around if you diverge from your customary path; with it, getting off track just adds to what you already know!

Consistency is essential for language learning because a language is something that grows, not something that can be cut up and memorized. Because it grows, returning to previous lessons isn't just repetition, but an expansion. Learning occurs not just when a new word is encountered, but when a new context for an old word is discovered, or a new way of using an old word is found.

The important thing is to keep your new language with you and not let its charming neighborhoods and side-streets fall out of sight. Early Start : Not only is there a wealth of scientific research and reports on the benefits of starting a second language at a young age, but it also just makes sense. When you are young, you're learning so much that the "foreignness" of a second language doesnt faze or intimidate you—in a sense, no language is "foreign" to a young child. Children are experimenting with all kinds of noises as well, and are less set in their ways in terms of which sounds they use.

Children are also less self-conscious that they're "learning" something when they're experiencing a new language, and that lack of self-consciousness can mean greater boldness and more resilience if they make a mistake. Children try out new words often—in their first language. Mistakes are just a natural part of that eager experimentation. Starting early also gives children greater time to see the effects of consistency and immersion blossom and build upon one another. Starting younger means children have greater room to grow into both their first and second languages, and more opportunities to see them side-by-side.

This side-by-side experience encourages your child to think in more complex ways and see more nuance both in the world and in language. We all know how vibrant synonyms can make language for even a monolingual speaker. When we learn the slight differences of meaning words take on in different languages, we discover that there are different ways of seeing and experiencing a single thing. Early Start.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the musician of the same name, see Charles Yang. Charles Yang. Robert Berwick Noam Chomsky. Yale University University of Pennsylvania. Categories : births Living people 21st-century linguists Linguists from the United States Cognitive scientists Guggenheim Fellows Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni University of Pennsylvania faculty American linguist stubs.