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How do babies understand language?

A study conducted by Dr. Michael Brent, an associate professor of computer science at the Washington University in St. Louis, gives us an insight into the way children understand and speak languages at such a tender age. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American association for the advancement of science in San Francisco. For years the ability of children to pick up language and to become familiar with it has baffled scientists. Anyone who listens to foreign language finds it even difficult to say where a word begins or ends, but children learn to adapt to strange languages in just one or two years. Brent and his colleagues have shown that babies do in fact learn from isolated words. The researchers analyzed hours of recorded speech from eight mothers to their babies. They put a tape recorder in a fanny pack that the women wore in around their home, and then they listened to the tape and analyzed speech patterns on a computer. The study started when the babies were 9 months old and stopped when they were 15 months old. The study showed the more a mother spoke a word the more the chances were for the baby to know it. As they continue to grow older the babies continue to learn more and develop more strategies to understand even widely separated words. All this goes to show that they have a very flexible mind. Didn’t someone say “The child is the father of the man”!!!

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