A new study has found that young babies who learn languages through videos do better with other babies than they do alone.
The study confirms previous studies that have found that a child’s learning can be greatly enhanced when it occurs with another child.
The study has been published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It included American researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Washington.
In general, very young children are able to learn languages much faster than older children or adults. But the researchers say there are still many unanswered questions about why this happens.
In the new study, the researchers wanted to build on previous studies that looked at the effectiveness of using video materials in language learning for very young children. Previous research has shown that the learning level of a young child using video is very low compared to the language spoken during a live presentation by humans.
A die previous studies measured the progress of 9-month-old children listening to Mandarin Chinese during a series of visits to a learning lab.
The children heard the presented language in three different ways. Some received a live social presentation. Others watched a video recording of the live social presentation. A third group listened to an audio-only recording of the live presentation.
The study measured the children’s ability to recognize differences in the Mandarin speech sounds they heard. Children who listened to recorded Mandarin did not experience the same learning progress as those who received a live social presentation.
These results suggest that the process of language learning “does not require long-term listening and is reinforced by social networks interaction“, indicates the study.
In the new study, the researchers wanted to see if language learning via video would be enhanced if the child went through the process with another child instead of alone. The experiment involved 9-month-old children who listened to videos in Mandarin.
This time the children were allowed to interact with a video screen. Children could touch different parts of the screen to control the presentation of the Mandarin video clips they saw. The researchers noted that babies were “quick to learn” that touching the screen would activate a video.
The researchers observed the children for signs of behavioral and brain responses to measure their level of proficiency in processing the sounds of language.
They reported finding brain-based evidence that clearly showed a higher level of language learning in children who participated in the experiment with another child. Additionally, the study found that putting children with new, unknown partners led to even higher learning outcomes.
Patricia Kuhl co-directed the study. She is a professor at the University of Washington and directs the Bezos Family Foundation for Early Learning. She Recount Daily Science that the study demonstrates the importance of working with a social partner to improve language learning.
Working with others – even at such a young age – “increases awakening“, which in turn leads to increased learning, Kuhl said. “The social partners not only provide information by showing us how to do things, but they also provide motivation to learn,” she added.
The researchers said the results show that increased learning only appears to be related to social interaction between children.
They found no clear links between higher levels of learning and watch time or number of videos watched. The study found that improved learning was also not directly affected by the number of times the screen was touched or by a child’s ability to move.
I am Brian Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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words in this story
to improve – v. improve something
interaction – nm the activity of talking or doing things with other people
screen – nm front part of an electronic device
unknown – adj. not known to you
awakening – nm to cause someone to experience a particular feeling or reaction
motivation – nm the enthusiasm, need or reason to do something