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July 19, 2013

Science & Research | Bilingualism

Bilingual children have a two-tracked mind

bilingual-kids.jpgIt seems that young children have an even greater capacity than previously thought to not only learn two languages simultaneously, but also learn two as easily as they can one and also keep them separated.

Adults learning a foreign language often need flash cards, tapes, and practice, practice, practice. Children, on the other hand, seem to pick up their native language out of thin air. The learning process is even more remarkable when two languages are involved.

In a study examining how bilingual children learn the two different sound systems of languages they are acquiring simultaneously, Ithaca College faculty member Skott Freedman has discovered insights that indicate children can learn two native languages as easily as they can learn one.

"At first glance, the process of learning a language can seem incredibly daunting," said Freedman, an assistant professor of speech language and pathology and audiology. "Environmental input presented at a fairly rapid rate must be mapped onto detailed representations in the brain. A word's meaning, sounds, and grammatical function all must be extracted from the incoming speech stream. Yet this potentially arduous task is typically executed with little effort by children barely a year old. In fact, studies show that children can learn a word in as little as one exposure."

But how complex is the process when a child grows up learning two languages?

Read the full article from Science Daily.

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