What b4 does.

When we are born our perceptual systems are capable of discriminating sounds that occur in any language. During the first year, our perception begins to zero in on the particular set of sounds that are contrastive in our native language(s) (L1s). For example, a child whose parents are L1 English speakers will pick up on … Read more

Deaf Infants Babble

In the last post, I wrote about Dr. Laura Petitto and the work she has done with deaf children. What she discovered is that children who are exposed to signed languages from birth acquire these languages on an identical maturational time course as hearing children acquire spoken languages. That is, in her words: “Deaf children … Read more

What Can Be Learned from Signing Kids?

I first saw Laura Petitto, on film, when she was the person assigned with teaching Nim Chimsky, a chimpanzee named after Noam Chomsky, to use sign language. She has gone on to great things. I’ll mention a couple of her amazing studies. Sign languages have phonetic units, and in one study (1 below), she demonstrated … Read more

It is still a mystery!

It has been over a decade since Mark Liberman lamented the common disconnect between research and practice in his blog, Language Log. He described what was then a twenty-year mystery: Why was High Variability Phonetic Training (HVPT) which he describes as a simple, quick, and inexpensive technique for helping adults to learn the sounds of … Read more

Perceptive Narrowing

Perceptive Narrowing Children lose the ability to hear the sounds that are not in their native language at around 1- year of age. That is a fact, and it is known as perceptive narrowing. I’ve been harping on this, and pointing out the implications for teaching young FL learners, for years. The reactions range from … Read more

Online videos

I said I would post links to online videos if people wanted to use them for online classes. I got positive responses, but nobody actually asked for the links. I am a little unsure what that means, so will post some of the videos. This is the YouTube series the videos come from.     … Read more

Videos to use in online classes

If you copy and paste this address into a browser, it will take you to a video and an attached quiz. It is one of 12. They can be used in online classes or as homework. And they are free.   https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1F1QUVGKeGtRMv6v9lDiHkx6Ricai9fMUHpAAz6IhQ_g/edit?usp=sharing        1) You will not be able to watch the video … Read more

Why Learners Can’t Distinguish Some Sounds

            In the last post, I showed that children lose the ability to hear non-native sounds at 1-year of age. In this post, I’ll explain why this is, and I’ll use the Native Language Magnet Theory (NLM; Kuhl, 2008) to do it.             NLM holds that infants recognize and categorize sound patterns into a “sound … Read more

A Lot of Teachers Don’t Realize That …

It’s amazing how many people do not know, or don’t seem to care, that kids lose the ability to hear the sounds of a non-native language at around their first birthday. This is critically important, but from my experience interacting with teachers, I would say the majority are not aware of it. In my last … Read more

Learners have to hear the sounds

Learners have to hear the sounds. That is what this post is about. I’ll make the following points: Learners have to hear the sounds to pronounce them correctly. Of course, they have to hear the sounds to understand what is being said. Errors are the most common cause of communication breakdowns when two non-native speakers … Read more

More Japanese Scholar in London

In this post, as the title suggests, I will introduce another article by Dr. Kazuya Saito. First, though, I’d like to touch on a question that arose regarding my last post. The abstract to one of the articles mentioned claimed, “Results suggested that explicit instruction had a significant effect on comprehensibility especially in the sentence-reading … Read more

A Japanese Scholar in London

A Japanese Scholar in London Kazuya Saito Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL, University College London    According to his webpage, Dr. Saito is currently studying audio processing and the role natural ability plays in second language learning. He is also working on a corpus for spontaneous speech of adult Japanese learners of English, … Read more

The Most Important Thing to Teach Youngsters

What is the most important thing we can teach young learners? Grammar? Vocab? Well, in my obviously biased opinion, it is the sounds. After years of teaching at the university level, it is clear who my best students have been. Other than those who have been abroad, the best students are those who studied at … Read more

Not sure what to make of this…

In this post, I will do what I often do. I will write about an article I read.This article, though, left me in a strange place – a kind of quandary.   Dr. Paola Escudero is an expert in the field of second language acquisition. She got her Ph. D in the Netherlands and is currently … Read more

Something you may not know

  Referent Vowels I don’t want to sound like a smarty-pants, but I asked friends and colleagues if they had heard of referent vowels and nobody had. For that reason, I assume many of you don’t know about them either.   Research has discovered that vowel discrimination is often asymmetric. This means that discriminating a … Read more

The Importance of HVPT

Being able to hear the sounds of a second language is important, right?   For listening, pronunciation, and phonics!!   I mean, how can you teach phonics, which is the correspondence between sounds and letters, if the students cannot distinguish all the sounds?   And, how do you teach the sounds to students who cannot … Read more

DeKeyser’s  ’16 TLT Interview

I came across an old TLT interview with Robert DeKeyser. It’s from May/June 2016, and in it he says what I have been saying since I started blogging. Namely, that grammar and vocabulary can be learned at any age. “Pronunciation” however,  “is clearly a function of age.” And this, as I have said perhaps too many … Read more

Bilingual Cognitive Advantage

Most English teachers know of the cognitive gains associated with bilingualism.  We love to tell our students about them. But, do you know when these improvements start to show, and what that implies?   At least some of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism are attributed to a bilingual’s need to inhibit one language while using … Read more

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