Tag Archives: research

How do children acquire language?

This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Shirley Cheung. She is currently researching how children acquire language for her Phd at Lancaster University. My sister took part in one of Shirley’s research sessions and we met shortly afterwards. So without further ado, on with the interview.


Could you tell us a little about your early language learning

My first (native) language is Cantonese. My mother is from Hong Kong and my father was from mainland China, but I was raised in the United States. I started to learn English as a second language in preschool, but I only transitioned to using English as my dominant language when I was around 10 years of age. As I started using more English at school and with my friends over time, I slowly lost my fluency in Cantonese.


Why are you interested in languages?

I am fascinated with languages and how we learn them from a very young age, because language acts as a gateway to communicate our thoughts and intentions with others. The ability to use language at the level that we do is what distinguishes us from primates and animals. Language is so complex, yet it seems like we acquire it with remarkable ease. Languages are also very different from each other (for example, Sign Language vs. French) yet they accomplish the same goal??? to communicate!

Why did you decide to do the research you now do?
My PhD investigates how language background (i.e. monolingualism vs. bilingualism) affects speech perception in young infants. More importantly, whether learning two languages promotes a greater advantage for infants to pick up sounds from languages they have never been exposed to before (that is, non-native languages). My main research question asks whether bilingualism aids in perceptual flexibility in the speech signal at the time where infants’ native-language perceptual systems start to become focused on only the sounds of the language(s) they are exposed to.


How can we help you with your research?

Currently I am seeking Mandarin-English bilingual families to participate in my research. Below is a PDF copy of my recruitment flyer. I’d also like to mention that I anticipate bringing my research down to London for a few months, so if any parents around the area are interested in taking part, please keep in touch. My email address is s.cheung@lancaster.ac.uk

4 Ways that Bilingualism Prepares Children for a Better Future

Today we have a Guest post from Paul Martin. He’s an English teacher living in Buenos Ayres and a writer for Language trainers. So without further ado, here it is!

All parents want to do whatever they can to ensure that their children have all the tools they need for a happy and prosperous future. And one of the greatest gifts you can give your child — one that will last for his or her entire life — is that of bilingualism. Given young learners’ natural curiosity and aptitude for learning languages, childhood is the perfect time to learn and master a new language. Further, beyond knowing another language, bilingual children enjoy a host of other benefits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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Picture by Pixabay

1. Increases cultural awareness
Some say that language holds the key to understanding culture. Indeed, learning a language isn’t just about learning new words — it’s about connecting with an entirely new way of viewing the world. By learning a foreign language, children are connecting with not just vocabulary and grammar, but also the culture and history of that language.

2. Enhances creativity
When children learn another language, they’re exercising their brains in new and unusual ways — language-learning forces them to think outside the box, to expand their horizons. And all this mental energy has a positive effect, even outside of the realm of language
recent study has shown that bilingual children solve mathematics problems more creatively than monolinguals.

3. Improves problem-solving skills
In addition to getting their creative juices flowing, knowing another language helps children think analytically. A Scottish study found that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children at tasks that required problem-solving skills. And what’s more, these problems didn’t just involve linguistic matters — bilinguals outperformed monolinguals in both language and arithmetic-related problems!

4. Protects against future neurological problems
One of the most surprising benefits of bilingualism is that it can keep your brain healthy even later in life. It’s recently been found that people who speak multiple languages show a significantly delayed onset of age-related decline in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. Just as daily exercise keeps your body healthy, bilingualism is a work-out for your brain, and keeps your mind healthy.

From giving them a more global, worldly outlook to protecting them against future cognitive decline, bilingualism is a gift that truly keeps giving. And aside from making them creative problem-solvers, knowing another language is just so cool! Indeed, if you want to prepare your child for the future, there’s no better thing you can do than teach him or her a new language.

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Paul writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and families. Check out their free online level tests and other resources on their website or send them a quick inquiry quick enquiry to find out more about their tailor-made lesson plans.