The celestial openness of the child’s mind.
Doesn’t that just sound beautiful? Apparently it is how romantic writers and poets described the mind of children. Although I haven’t yet found where…. No matter. The following video of a lecture by Patricial Kuhl explains it all. We all know that speaking more than one language with children has many benefits, including creating even more extraordinary brains. Just wait til you hear what she has to say about the brains of babies and how they acquire and differentiate between languages! It’s absolutely fascinating!
My husband was watching the video on Ted.com, and I very quickly became riveted to the screen. I just had to share it! It’s about 10 minutes long, but so worth watching – especially for those of us raising bilingual children!
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You know, I studied a little bit about second language acquisition (SLA) when I was a grad student. I have to confess: I found it awfully dull! And yet, the real-life experience of watching Aleksander become bilingual is utterly fascinating to me!! So maybe it was just the articles and the way they were written that were dull?
I mean, this is fascinating stuff, isn’t it?! I was especially shocked by the facts about input through audio and television. They absolutely cannot compare with real live human interaction! That doesn’t mean we’ll stop listening to music and audio CDs or watching a German DVD. But the human element is irreplaceable.
I do have some questions, though. How much input do they need to be able to continue distinguishing the sounds? I just watched PER read three Dutch books to Aleksander. You may recall that PER doesn’t really speak much Dutch to Aleksander – he gets occasional input at best. And yet, Aleksander sat in PER’s lap, happily listening to each book. When PER asked a question such as “Where is the lion?” (I don’t speak Dutch, so I’ll just give translations!), Aleksander pointed to the lion! When PER asked, “What’s that?” Aleksander named several animals in Dutch!! Okay, maybe he was able to do this, because PER has read him these books before. Nevertheless, I sat there in amazement!
I have been wondering something else, too – about myself this time. Does all this research about distinguishing sounds help with pronunciation, too? I would think so. So how come my German pronunciation often gets complimented as being near-native? And even Italians have told me I should learn Italian, because my accent is so good. I’m pretty sure my French isn’t too bad either. So where did this ability come from? And why does it appear to be true for these languages but not for others? Apparently, my Dutch pronunciation is terrible And when a bilingual friend tried to teach me some Swedish, I did not receive the same compliments that I’d gotten from the Italians. I have to admit that this makes me crazy! Why can I pronounce some languages so well and others not well at all??? I do wonder if I could improve if I had some instruction from someone who could better explain the sounds and how to make them. PER has many talents, but a language teacher he is not! Someday, I’ll have to find myself a Dutch teacher and give it a try….
For now I’ll just focus on Aleksander. I’m rather jealous that he gets to grow up with English, German, and a wee little bit of Dutch! Aren’t our children lucky that they are being raised with more than one language?! Just think of what it’s doing for the development of their brains, especially as they are “celestially open”!