Monday, July 24, 2006

How do babies learn to talk?

Every parent of a new child needs to listen to this NPR radio report.

How does a child learn to recognize spoken sounds and differentiate them from other sounds? This report explains it. How does the same child begin to make sounds similar to those the child hears spoken? This report also explains that. The audio will be posted around 7:30PM July 24. The written part of the story gives a lot of the background of speech.

This is ground-breaking research. The stuff that scientists said they think had to be happening? This research was able to actually able to watch and report on the development of the brain as the neurons were developed during the first year of life between the speech recognition brain center and that center that actually reproduced the speech.

I have never heard or seen anything else as good or as clear.

My added experience with raising children.

My advice to new parents is to think of the new child as a wolf cub. Humans, dogs, and wolves are all pack animals. When the cub is born, the primary motivation that makes them happy is to watch a larger cub and copy them. The goal is to learn to do what the big wolves do. Of course, a baby is just another pack animal watching the family to see what the larger wolves/people are doing and do that same thing. Ever wonder why every baby loves to play with keys? Simple. The big people (wolves) are always doing things with keys.

This is ALSO why small children NEVER listen to what you SAY. They do what you do, and don't have any motivation to behave as you say. That's also why your kids will always learn your faults. Since you know what your own faults are, you see that immediately. Like all of us, that will be what they do that makes you the most angry.

The information on language development and the recognition that babies are little pack animals and are motivated to act just like wolves and dogs will give ever new parent a lot of comfort. Those things explain what they are doing and (more important)what they aren't doing. Keep these things in mind and you will know what the child learns and why the child won't listen. The reason is clear. They don't learn from words at that age. First they have to learn ABOUT words, and in the meantime they will just copy the behavior of others around them.

I think they recognize that the behavior of other children just a little larger than they are will be easier to copy than the behavior of adults. That's why in restaurants and grocery stores small children are always watching other children a little larger than they are. Watch adults with small children in stores and restaurants, and especially watch who the small children are looking at when they aren't directly interacting with the adults - or big wolves, as I call them. When they get the attention of the adults, small children love the interaction. When they don't get that attention, they are always watching other children slightly older/larger than they are to see what works to get adult attention. The motivation is to learn how to get the direct attention of the adult wolves/people. That is what motivates the little characters socially.

Fascinating, isn't it? I promise - watch the small children with their family in restaurants and grocery stores. If learning what motivates small children is interesting to you, that observation will be really fun. The only real difficult part is not telling the parents what they are doing wrong and why they are so frustrated with the child. Unfortunately, telling the parent what's wrong only works if you are an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Strangers need not apply.

If you see this and have vignettes to report, Please leave a comment here.

No comments: