WHERE ADULT FEAR TO TREAD

Language -with all of its magnificent complexities- is one of the greatest gifts we give our children. Yet, we so often treat our verbal communication with children in a flippant way. There is a delusion that children learn language passively; this needs to be disabused .The adult must have a strong emotional link with the child as imitation is the first step that child takes towards speech. It must brings pleasant feelings which function as positive reinforcement. How much easier this learning process can then become for children when adults are active participants ?

The child’s brain is learning and changing more during language acquisition in the first six years of life than during any other cognitive ability.

There is no genetic code that leads a child to speak English or Spanish or Japanese. Language is learned through environment. We are born with the capacity to make 40 sounds and our brain learns to make associations between sounds and objects, actions, or ideas. The combination of these capabilities allows the creation of language. Sounds come to have meaning. The babbling sound “ma – ma – ma” of the infant becomes mama, and then mother. In the first years of life children listen, practice, and learn. The amusing sounds of a young toddler practicing language -in seemingly meaningless gabble, is really their modeling of the whatever they see in us.

In many parts of the world, young children pick up four or five motley languages with no awareness that they’re talking different languages. It’s just: This is the way you talk to your aunt, this is the way you talk to your father, this is the way your neighbor understands and so on and so forth. It’s just like mouthing both English and Japanese because that’s the lingua your father and mother spoke, respectively.

One of the most pertinent discoveries in biology in the last 50 years is that the brains of all young animals, including children, go through critical periods when they are particularly malleable to learning or mapping different forms of information.

The primary postulation goes back to Eric Lenneberg, who founded the current trends in biology of language. His thesis which was pretty much everyone’s was that language development was like other forms of growth and development. Almost invariably, growth and development has what’s called a critical period. There’s a particular period of maturation in which, with external stimulation of the appropriate kind, the capacity will pretty suddenly develop and mature. Predating that and later than that, it’s either harder or impossible.

This is similar to the critical period of human maturation during which the visual system develops binocular vision under normal circumstances—but under deprivation, it won’t. At roughly 4 months of age, under normal stimulation, binocular vision will develop.

In experiments with animals, say cats and monkeys, it’s been shown that if they’re deprived of stimulation if e.g., a kitten doesn’t get patterned visual stimuli in the first several weeks of life its capacity to develop vision dies and the neural basis for it actually degenerates. But if pattern stimulation does appear at that time, then the kitten will develop normal vision.

That’s a pointed example of a critical period. After age 10, learning new words becomes progressively harder until, as adults, it is exceedingly difficult. Puberty may be the end of the critical learning age. There are numerous examples of feral children who found learning human languages recondite. The older you get, the more you use your native language and the more it comes to dominate your linguistic map. You still have brain litheness, but your mother tongue rules. Your brain trains itself to not be advertent to foreign sounds, and the space in your head dedicated to language gets rather crowded almost like a “Write only” hard disk!

The exciting news about “critical-period lissomeness” is that it may be possible to reopen it so that adults can pick up languages the way children do. In experiments with rats, Dr. Michael Merzenich has reopened their critical-period plasticity by artificially turning on and keeping on their nucleus basilis using microelectrodes and an electric current. Someday, may be the same thing will be done with humans, using micro injections of certain drugs or chemicals. Just imagine, spending some time with Swahili speaking folks, you’ll be able to learn Swahili and speak it without your mother-tongue accent!

There are experts who demur at this theory in that they believe learning a second language, in particular, is easier during 10-14 years, because by then the child has mastered the grammar of his first language and can use similar rule for the second unlike a toddler. Its always possible that his early environment may be that of an odd dialect, and a reorientation may be required of him to use the rules of the languages scrupulously.

Both theories agree that children have a neurological advantage in learning languages, and that after puberty one may find the idea of learning new languages rather vapid. Some adults are receptive to any changes they don’t want to give themselves a further chance in life and remain stagnant. So silence in homes or in classrooms may not be golden after all!

To be fair, there are exceptions. There are grown ups who display an amazing flair for picking up new languages. These are usually people who have managed to keep the kids inside them alive

Word – Watch

 

Acquisition

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the act of contracting or assuming or acquiring possession of something; something acquired; an ability that has been acquired by training; the cognitive process of acquiring skill or knowledge

Synonyms : attainment

Advertent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; giving attention

Synonyms : attentive

Amenable

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; disposed or willing to comply; liable to answer to a higher authority; open to being acted upon in a certain way; readily reacting to suggestions and influences

Synonyms : responsive

Babbling

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; gibberish resembling the sounds of a baby

Other Meaning(s) : adjective continuous low murmuring sound; as especially of water; talking idly or incoherently;

Synonyms : jabbering

Contemporary

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; belonging to the present time; characteristic of the present; occurring in the same period of time; noun a person of nearly the same age as another

Synonyms : contemporaneous

Cognitive

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; Of or being or relating to or involving cognition

Synonyms : intellectual, mental

Degenerates

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; becomes bad or foul

Synonyms : deteriorate

Delusion

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas; a mistaken or unfounded opinion or idea; (psychology) an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary

Synonyms : misconception

Demur

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; take exception to; enter a demurrer

Other Meaning(s) : noun (law) a formal objection to an opponent’s pleadings;

Synonyms : disagree

Deprivation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; act of depriving someone of food or money or rights; the disadvantage that results from losing something; a state of extreme poverty

Synonyms : privation, neediness

Dialect

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people

Synonyms : idiom

Disabused

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; freed of a mistaken or misguided notion

Synonyms : correct

Feral

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; wild and menacing

Synonyms : feline, savage

Flippant

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; showing inappropriate levity

Synonyms : dismissive

  • Grabble

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; to talk reapidly and unintellingibly

Synonyms: jabber, babble

Intricacy

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; marked by elaborately complex detail

Synonyms : involution

Lingua

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; language

Other Meaning(s) : Noun; a mobile mass of muscular tissue covered with mucous membrane and located in the oral cavity

Synonyms : tongue

Lissomeness

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the gracefulness of a person or animal that is flexible and supple

Synonyms : nimbleness, agility

Litheness

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the gracefulness of a person or animal that is flexible and supple

Synonyms : suppleness

Malleable

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; capable of being taught, managed, shaped or bent.

Synonyms : pliable

Maturation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; coming to full development; becoming mature;

Other Meaning(s) : (medicine) the formation of morbific matter in an abscess or a vesicle and the discharge of pus; (biology) the process of an individual organism growing organically; a purely biological unfolding of vents involved in an organism changing gradually from a simple to a more complex level

Synonyms : ripening suppuration

Motley

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds (even to the point of incongruity);

Other Meaning(s) : adjective having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly; noun a multicolored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads in 14th to 17th century England; a garment made of motley (especially a court jester’s costume); a collection containing a variety of sorts of things; verb make motley; color with different colors; make something more diverse and varied

Synonyms : smorgasbord, potpourri

Mouthing

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; something said that is hypocritical or meaningless

Synonyms : voice, speech

Mapping

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; sketching or planning

Synonyms : outline, plan

Mouthing

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; speaking

Synonyms : uttering

Microelectrodes

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; an electrode with a very small tip for use in brain studies. The device can be inserted without membrane damage into nervous tissue to record the bioelectrical activity of a simple neuron.

Synonyms : micas, micate

Neural

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; of or relating to a nerve or the nervous system

Synonyms : neuronal, neuronic

Nucleus Basilis

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the positively charged central region of an atom, consisting of protons and neutrons and containing most of the mass

Synonyms : important element

Perishes

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; becomes foul

Synonyms : decays

Pertinent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; having precise or logical relevance to the matter at hand; being of striking appropriateness and pertinence

Synonyms : appropriate

 

Pointed

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; direct and obvious, or reference; often unpleasant; having a point

Synonyms : targeted

Postulation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; (logic) a declaration of something self-evident; something that can be assumed as the basis for argument; a formal message requesting something that is submitted to an authority

Synonyms : supposition

Predating

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; occupying earlier in time

Synonyms : antedating

Puberty

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the time of life when sex glands become functional

Synonyms : pubescence

Plasticity

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the condition of being soft and capable of being moulded

Synonyms : smoothness, flexibility

Recondite

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; difficult to penetrate; incomprehensible to one of ordinary understanding or knowledge

Synonyms : esoteric

Reinforcement

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; information that makes more forcible or convincing; an act performed to strengthen approved behavior; a device designed to provide additional strength; (psychology) a stimulus that strengthens or weakens the behavior that reduced it

Other Meaning(s) : a military operation (often involving new supplies of men and materiel) to strengthen a military force or aid in the performance of its mission;

Synonyms : strengthener

Reorientation

Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to change the direction or management of something, to deal with a new situation

Synonyms : change, turnabout

Receptive

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; ready and willing to accept something such as new ideas

Synonyms : open, amenable

Scrupulously

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adverb; with extreme conscientiousness

Synonyms : conscientiously, religiously

Stimulation

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the act of arousing an organism to action; any stimulating information or event; acts to arouse action; physiology) the effect of a stimulus (on nerves or organs etc.);

Synonyms : arousal

Semantics

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the study of language Meanings

Synonyms : linguistics

Stagnant

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; not developing or making progress

Synonyms : sluggish, inactive

Toddler

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a young child

Synonyms : yearling, bambino

Vapid

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; lacking significance or liveliness or spirit or zest; lacking taste or flavor or tang

Synonyms : bland, tasteless

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