Those of us who believe that our little children can learn language by listening to rhymes on television, mobile phones, or ipads, need to rethink again. In her TED talk “The Linguistic Genius of Babies” Dr. Kuhl, who has been internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development, emphasises that nurturing interactions with caregivers is more valuable to babies’ early language development than interfacing with technology.
Based on a research study, Kuhl states that young babies cannot learn language from television or other screens and it is necessary for babies to have lots of face-to-face interaction to learn how to talk. Kuhl’s team exposed 9 month old American babies to Mandarin in various forms of in-person interactions with native Mandarin speakers vs. audiovisual or audio recordings of these speakers. They looked at the impact of this exposure on the babies’ ability to make Mandarin phonetic contrasts at 10-12 months of age. While twelve laboratory visits featuring in-person interactions with the native Mandarin speakers were sufficient to teach American and Taiwanese babies to distinguish the Mandarin sounds, the same number of lab visits featuring the audiovisual or audio recordings made no impact.