Saturday, October 27, 2007

Computers learning to talk

My oldest sister and her husband are deaf but most of their children can hear. When her oldest finally learned how to talk, he had a bit of a speech problem but nothing that was too serious. His younger sister learned how to talk faster than he did and his youngest brother is already talking up a storm.

The way these babies, my nephews and niece, learned how to talk helps me be on the side of what researchers found using a new computer program.

Some believe that some language is hardwired into your brain. Some go to the extent to believe that babies are born knowing all the sounds in languages in all the world and learn language by how the sounds are put together.

To study how babies learn language, researchers at Stanford University are working on a computer model that does the same processes a baby's brain does when it is learning language. It's not fully completed yet, but they have tested their model out to make sure it is accurate. They found that, when studying both American and Japanese mother's and babies talking with each other that the model learned language at the same rate the babies did.

I'll admit now that I don't know very much about learning to talk. I am an engineering major, not a speech analyst. But I do know how my nephews and niece learned how to talk in a deaf home. My sister can speak but she can't hear so a lot of what she says is distorted. Her husband doesn't speak much. Her oldest son learned how to talk mostly from visiting us and from the TV. He ended up delayed a little in learning how to talk and formed words differently, like he had an accent. My sister's third child, her only daughter, learned in much the same way except that she had a very talkative brother to teach her words. The youngest is still in his toddler age, and he is the earliest of his siblings to talk. I think a lot of language has to be learned and isn't hardwired. I think that they learn from watching how mom and dad form vowels and consonants with their mouth and how they sound.

Of course, I haven't done enough research to say definitively, but I believe that babies aren't born with the knowledge of language. They are instead born with the openness to learn it.

Thanks Wasted News for the content.

Thanks Baby Talk Canada for the picture.

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