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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 post, I pointed out how hearing the sounds of a language – being able to distinguish the sounds – is fundamental to speaking and reading. That it is fundamental to listening should be obvious. In this post, I will tell of, and give a link to, the research.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s researchers looking for the innate phonetic representations Chomsky hypothesized, carried out cross-language speech perception studies. They found that infants could discriminate both native and non-native contrasts equally well. Infants can hear the sounds of any language. Clearly, adults cannot distinguish the phonemes of every language, so the question that arose was at what age we lose this ability. In 1983, Dr. Janet Werker took up this question and hypothesized that the ability to discriminate non-native contrasts is lost at puberty. She discovered, however, that the loss occurs between 6 and 12 months of age(Werker & Tees).

Watch this amazing video:



This is not to say children cannot learn to hear the sounds. They can, but it is best to start as young as possible, and to use the teaching method proven by research. That is what this blog focuses on – teaching the sounds of English.

That is also what b4 from Aka-Kara English does.



Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (1983). Developmental changes across childhood in theperception of non-native speech sounds. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 37(2), 278-286.



2 Responses to A Lot of Teachers Don’t Realize That …

  1. Hello Jim,
    I know you from the time you were living in Barcelona and teaching English at the North American Studies Institute (IEN). I kindly remember you.
    I have found all this huge information about your current projects and professional targets. It is a pleasure for me to see that you keep on loving your job.
    I want to congratulate you for that.
    I am sure that you deeply contribute to increase the quality of learning and teaching skills for both students and teachers.
    Congratulations again!!
    I would be so happy to contact you if you are also pleased to.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Kind regards.

  2. Olga! Que tal?
    Wow. What a surprise. If you want to email me my address is:
    What a surprise.

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