"The best language learners are children, and that's really remarkable, because children come into the world without any knowledge of what a language should be like." - Evan Kidd
It's common knowledge that kids have adults beat in one category (besides fitting into small spaces): Language. While adults have the advantage in most other subjects, kids are just naturally BETTER at learning languages. But why? And how? Come to think of it, how do we even learn our first language? Somehow, it's a natural process in development to learn to speak the language that surrounds us.
Doesn't that blow your mind?
Evan Kidd puzzles over this question every day. He speaks three languages: His native English (he's from Australia), Italian, and Tok Pisin, a language he studies in Papua New Guinea.
Evan calls languages a "natural experiment." Although he uses the standard process of the scientific method, he can't control all the different variables of the subject he's studying. For example, Spanish in Spain is spoken differently from Spanish in Argentina. Parents from different cultures speak to their children in different ways that could affect the process by which they learn language. Or the languages themselves might be processed and learned in different ways.
With so many variables, Evan has to focus his questions to learn very specific pieces of information about how we learn language. That's why he calls language a complex puzzle. Many people are working on it at once (and there are no edge pieces!).
"The more I learn, the more I realize that we've got so many questions that we need to answer," Evan told us. The questions he's asking continue to fascinate him.
What do you want to know about how we learn language?
Even though we don't have a full understanding of language yet - and won't for a long time - scientists like Evan have discovered many interesting things about how we learn, understand, and speak a language.
Are you bilingual? Speaking two languages (or more, which makes you multilingual, look at you) gives you some important brain-related advantages.
Learn about the neuroscience of why kids learn languages better than grownups:
Here's a few articles about new discoveries in language:
Baby Talk Has A Secret Meaning
Did We Learn To Speak in Order To Negotiate?
Want to test your own language processing skills? Try this super cool, mind bending experiment!
For a transcript of this episode and other educational materials, pledge on our Patreon page!