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Why Can Young Children Learn Their Native Language So Easily?

It's a widely held idea that kids pick up languages more quickly than adults do. Science and research largely support this belief. Unfortunately, there are still a great deal of open issues. For instance, why do kids pick up languages more quickly? How much more quickly do they pick them up? Do they pick them up more quickly as a result of their surroundings, their brain chemistry, or a mix of the two? Can adults learn in the same way that toddlers do?

It's difficult to dispute the cognitive advantage very young children have while learning new languages, despite the fact that environmental benefits may be crucial. Neural connections are made quickly in babies and young kids. The brain gets more specialized as it grows, strengthening the neuronal pathways that are frequently used. This is advantageous since it increases brain productivity, but it also makes learning new things more difficult. Because of this, people who learn a language at a young age develop a native accent. Later in life, we are compelled to revert to the sounds, or phonemes, of languages we are familiar with because of the neural shortcuts our brains have developed to maximize efficiency.

Babies and young children are able to learn languages at a faster rate due to the brain's flexibility and quick neuronal development. The "critical period" is another name for this. The crucial neurological foundation for language acquisition is thought to have been irreversibly broken if a kid does not learn any language during this time, including non-verbal languages. If this happens, it is possible that the child will never be able to learn any language.

The approximately 800 phonemes that can be used to produce all of the words in every language in the world are all audible to the newborn brain from birth. Our research demonstrates that a secret gateway opens in the infant's brain during the second half of the first year. He or she enters what neuroscientists refer to as a "sensitive period," when the developing brain is prepared to learn the first fundamental lessons about the magic of language.

At six months for vowels and nine months for consonants, a child's brain is most receptive to acquiring the sounds of a native tongue. The sensitive stage seems to only last a few months, but it seems to stay longer for kids who are exposed to noises from a second language. Up until the age of seven, a child can still learn a second language rather fluently.

The innate ability to speak does not enable infants to communicate beyond their first "Mama" and "Dada" utterances. Many hours spent listening to parents use the ridiculous language known as "parentese" will aid in the development of the most crucial of all social skills. It provides daily lessons in the intonations and cadences of the baby's native speech through its exaggerated inflections, such as "You're a preettee babbee." Our research ends the long-running arguments over whether early language development is primarily influenced by genes or by the environment. They both have prominent roles.

A traveller to France or Japan can hear the statistical distributions of sounds from another language, but the experience does not change the brain in the way it might in later childhood or, particularly, as an adult. That is why learning a second language as an adult is so challenging.


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