In an effort to give this little mish mosh of a blog of mine more direction, I'd like to try to dedicate Fridays to writing a bit about my linguistic adventures with Jack and Nora. Did you know that babies can discriminate all the sounds of their language, including languages foreign to them? Little babies, Nora's age, are "taking statistics" on the language that they hear. Ok, I stole that from a Ted talk I listened to. Watch it here:
Bilingual people keep two sets of "statistics" in their brains, and learn to switch between the two. Patricia Kuhl, a reseacher in early language and brain development, ran some experiments where monolingual babies about six months old where exposed to a second language via three methods: human interaction, video, and audio. Not surprisingly, gains where only evident with the babies that had human interaction. I think this directly ties in with Stephen Krashen's theory of comprehensible input-- the messages delivered to the listener must be made comprehensible, and we do this by making them interesting. Jack and Nora are going to benefit more from me talking, singing, and reading to them in Spanish then me clicking on some radio TV show and walking away. Although, don't get me wrong-- it has been done-- I just know that there aren't going to be much of a linguistic stride made during those thirty minutes.
Teaching Jack and Nora my second language has opened up a whole world for me. Yes, I consider myself a linguist but when studying for my Masters, my linguistics classes were by far my least favorites. I just didn't "get it" and quite frankly was more interested in other aspects of my language learning journey. As a high school teacher for nine years, my interest in second language acquisition and how the brain really works really ramped things up for me. I became obsessed with learning everything I possibly could about, specifically, about the theory of comprehensible input and in turn TPRS, or Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. This was years ago, but it revolutionized the way I taught and to this do is still something I'm proud of. Fast forward to present day-- I have two little munchkins that are my little experiments, and I'm quickly learning that babies brains are these absolutely incredible little things! In another post I'll get more into what Jack is saying and do, but I'll end the post with this linguistic- related observation. We had a visit this morning from a friend and former colleague, who is also on the bilingual baby train, so to speak. Megan and I speak English to each other, but I was carefully observing Jack to see what language he would choose to speak to her, even after telling him that she spoke Spanish. I could see him stumbling for his words as he kind of muddled his way through his decision- making process. Kind of like his little brain was saying.."What do I choose?" Naturally he is going to choose the language he hears her speaking, English, but he continues to speak Spanish to me. Isn't that cool?