• Question: will your work help people to find ways they can make children learn to talk quicker.

    Asked by justinbieber to Nayeli on 25 Sep 2017.
    • Photo: Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez

      Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez answered on 25 Sep 2017:

      No, my work won’t help to find ways to make children to learn to talk quicker. In fact, the goal of my research is to understand how they are able to learn to speak so quickly and almost effortlessly. If you think about it, only after 12 months (sometimes even less) infants are able to produce their first word. That’s really amazing, considering that in order to that they had to:
      -Learn the rhythmic properties of their language, such as stress patterns and intonation.
      -Learn the repertoire of sounds that their language uses. Overall you can find more than 800 different sounds across languages, however, each language only uses about 40 of them, and babies need to learn this.
      -They also need to learn how to produce each of the sounds just by hearing other people saying them and trying to imitate them.
      -Babies need to figure out the rules applying to those sounds, for example, which sounds can be combined together and which ones can’t.
      -They also need to find what is and what is not a word. This might seem trivial; however it is a very challenging task, since there are no pauses between words when we speak. For example, have a look at this video:

      Just try to tell how many words is the tv presenter saying,
      That’s hard, right? And we are not even trying to identify the words, just to count them.

      -Once babies have found a word, they need to find that word in different contexts so that they can figure out what that word means.
      -Babies also need to figure out how to pronounce that word.

      Importantly, babies do all of these by themselves without really being told how to do each of these. So, as you can see the process works amazingly well already, we just need to find out how are babies able to do it.

      P.S. Remember that you can meet me and the other researchers at the Living Library event this Friday (29th), and that you can get free tickets for the IAR Live Final!