Learning Languages

"Why do children learn languages so quickly and so easily? Unlike adults, kids don't usually need so much formal study to learn a language. It's a question that has confused educators and psychologists for a very long time.

It seems that a person's native language gets in the way of learning another language. It starts in infancy. Babies usually hear their parents use only one language. Baby brains ignore other sounds that don't fit the pattern of sounds they most often hear. In fact, even at eleven months, the ability to hear new and different sounds of a foreign language becomes more difficult.
Researchers have made a few discoveries. Children need to experience a foreign language as early as possible. If the parents speak a second language, they should speak it at home. However, researchers have learned that TV and CDs alone don't work for foreign language learning. Babies need interaction. So if the parents only speak one language, then play groups, lessons, and other opportunities are necessary.
Children are like sponges. Researchers hope to learn more about how children learn, and apply that to adult language education in the future.

Discuss: Answer these questions with a partner.

1. Do you speak more than one language? Please explain.
2. Do you want to speak four or five languages? Why/not?
3. Do you children can learn a foreign language more easily than adults?
4. Some people learn languages very easily. Why do you think so?
5. What study advice would you give to someone who wants to learn another language?

True or False?: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) if the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

1. Researchers now understand why children learn languages so quickly.
2. The native language often gets in the way of other languages.
3. Babies ignore sounds that don't fit the language they usually hear.
4. TV, CDs, and lessons all work equally well.
5. Researchers will soon understand and apply their research to adults.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers and ask more questions with your partner.
1. What do you think about learning a foreign language? Please explain.
2. What are your experiences for learning a foreign language? Please explain.
3. Do you wish that you had learned English as a baby? Why/not?
4. Why do you currently study English? Please explain.
5. Do you think someday adults will be able to learn a language like children?
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