"The researchers tested 44 12-month-olds to see how they recognized three-syllable patterns — nonsense words, just to test sound learning. Sure enough, gaze-tracking showed the bilingual babies learned two kinds of patterns at the same time — like lo-ba-lo or lo-lo-ba — while the one-language babies learned only one, concluded Agnes Melinda Kovacs of Italy's International School for Advanced Studies."The BAD news? "While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty." Meh.
Oops, but this is "Ask Auntie Web", right? So here is some more GOOD news: You can acheive similar success teaching elementary school children and even adults (!) by using "Motherese", the slow exaggeration of sounds that parents use with babies - and a computer:
"Japanese college students who'd had little exposure to spoken English underwent 12 sessions listening to exaggerated "Ls" and "Rs" while watching the computerized instructor's face pronounce English words. Brain scans — a hair dryer-looking device called MEG, for magnetoencephalography — that measure millisecond-by-millisecond activity showed the students could better distinguish between those alien English sounds. And they pronounced them better, too, the team reported in the journal NeuroImage.
"It's our very first, preliminary crude attempt but the gains were phenomenal," says Kuhl."
Thank you to Brooke Shanley-Hurtado (spkspanglish), who teaches elementary and middle school bilingual classes in Chicago, for this tip! Her blog SpkSpanglish is here.