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-or,rir,.ued on pase ! 4
PAGE 14 MAD]5ON PARENT
urually by five or six years of age, our brain
Langrfage has lost the flexibility or plasticity to abrorb
continued from pege 4 others as easily. By pre-pubescence, around
eight or ten years of age, learning ianguages
easier to master before puberty. becomer significantly more drfficu lt.
Part of the reason why children more Yet, 5eidenberg maintains, children older
easil'7 iearn ianguages ir simply the fact thaE than frVe have not necessarily rnissed a gold-
t
well, .v think like kids. "lChildrenJ absorb en opportunity, In fac! he argues, younger
langui- i and they love language," says children are still so occupied with straight-
Geiler Ltrgasry. Because they are more play-
fui, they end up learning languages indi-
rectly through garr,er and songs, Part of the reason why
Thor Templin, a graduate student in the
Deparfment cf German and the
children more easily learn
Department of 5candfnavian Studies at UW, languages is simply ihe
agrees. Templin, who has taught German to iact that, well, tl"rey think
,:hildren fro'n five to l4 years of age, tyr
kidr are iei: afraid to make mistakes. "With like kids.
^:duit: lhere'i aiwayr that moment of hesfta-
tron ,here fJrev're trying to process the ening or:t the rvorld that they have pienty
rrarnnar-" he obseryes. 'Adula have thil A physiological theory explaining in{anb' acuii'v io enough to di;cover. By five or six, cn the
probtern where they want to know every- learn languages ruggerfu thcir brains or more roal- other hand, kiCs knou,nore, such ar the
thrng ri.qht away." ieable or plaiiic. The rtudy. howe';er, failr tc obje,:a to which worCs are referring yet
addrers their propenliN to eat pl;stic. ther stili retain a "voracio'-ts capacity- tc
A lack cf self-consciousness isn't the only
ieason why chiliren easily absorb languages. hasn't yet been deveioped. As we ierrr. :he ie.: i'n. "
vVhile tne physiological mechanisms of lan- brain becomes cclonizec lnct, once coic,- M,rreover, the factors that conti'ibute to
tLr,',_qe ;cquisition are not weil understood, nized, u harCer to change. ianquaqe acquisition are not entir'ely bioiog-
one iheor;i suggesb that the brain is more As UW profesror of piychciogy l-Vark ic;iJ. Other issuet, what te cails scc;ai cir-
,r,;rile;bie o'- plasfic when we are young. 5eidenberg expiains, bv the time or-ir ccm- crrrnstances and motrvation," are cr:e iil.
Safi'ran likens the brain to real estate that mand of our fir:t ianquage ir very' good, continueci o* page 2O

These include the amount of Fo,- older kids, txchange pro-


support an individuat receives grams and language camps can
while Jearning a ianguage, the provide ihem wfth benefit-s that
PAGE 20 degree.of exporure to lhe lan- last much longer than the expe-
guage (fmme rsian, for example, rience ibelf, Programs in and

LangUage continued rrom pase 4


acceierates language learning at
any age), ;nd whether or not
around Maciison cffer a variety
ofapprcaches to language edu-
that exposure war in an isolated cation. 5ome are listed belou/;
and iimited cornmunity, Of t Parents of 6-12-month-old
ccurue, individual cases also vary infants interested in partrci-
due to what Saffran calls simply pating in Saffran's rtudy can
"talent." contact her at
U nfortunateJy, Saffran point-s 608_263_587 6. or wr,rrv.wais-
out while we best acquire lan- man.wfsc. edu / infa ntlea rningi
guages when we are young the fnfant-research. html
Amerfcan educational system *
The Madison Chinese
rarely mandates foreign lan- Language Schooi offers
guage study untrl high school or Chinese classes to child:'en
even college-after the brain's and adulti:
plasUcity is significantly limited.
By then, she iaments, "it's way www. mcll.dc it.wisc.edu
. The UniversitT* of Wisconlin's
too late."
Many language programj Division of Continuing 5tudies
now gear a portion of their cur- offeru a variety ot'language
riculum toward kids" Berides clasresto children and adults.
growing up in a bilingual house- 608-262-1156. or
hold, immerion in eiementary 'vww.dcs.wisc' edu I :lals. I lan-
s

ichoois is the most effectrVe guage.htrnl


;'neanr cf introducing children ' Concordia Lairguage iriliaqes
tc another ianguage. But even in Moorhead, lvlinn. r,fiert 12
cr-;ifu ral pfograrnr, language cii{ferent language ca;:i1:i for
one, two or iour u'eek riaYl
':la:ses and language-oriented
rne,jia wfil pique a child': inter- each summer;
est.in and sensitvity to other www. co rd.e<r'u i ciePt. ch,'. I
cu ltu i'es.