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(中英对照)弄清楚小孩子如何如此容易地就学会了双语

Unraveling how children become bilingual so easily
弄清楚小孩子如何如此容易地就学会了双语

WASHINGTON – The best time to learn a foreign language: Between birth and age 7. Missed that window?
华盛顿——学习外语的最佳时间:从出生到7岁之间。错过了这个时机呢?

New research is showing just how children's brains can become bilingual so easily, findings that scientists hope eventually could help the rest of us learn a new language a bit easier.
新的研究显示出小孩子的大脑如何这么容易就学会了双语,科学家希望这个研究结果能够帮助我们这些人更容易地去学习一种新的语言。

"We think the magic that kids apply to this learning situation, some of the principles, can be imported into learning programs for adults," says Dr. Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington, who is part of an international team now trying to turn those lessons into more teachable technology.
华盛顿大学的Patricia Kuhl博士是一个国际团队的一员,这个团队正在致力于把小孩子学习英语的经验教训转变成可教学的技术,他说:“我们认为小孩用在学习情景上的这种魔力,以及一些原则,也可以引用到成年人的学习项目中。”

Each language uses a unique set of sounds. Scientists now know babies are born with the ability to distinguish all of them, but that ability starts weakening even before they start talking, by the first birthday.
每一种语言都使用一套独特的声调。科学家现在知道婴儿出生的时候就有这种能力去区别所有的声调,但是这种能力在他们一周岁开始讲话之前就开始衰退了。

Kuhl offers an example: Japanese doesn't distinguish between the "L" and "R" sounds of English — "rake" and "lake" would sound the same. Her team proved that a 7-month-old in Tokyo and a 7-month-old in Seattle respond equally well to those different sounds. But by 11 months, the Japanese infant had lost a lot of that ability.
Kuhl举了一个例子:日本人不区分英语中“L”和“R”之间的声调——“rake”和“lake”听起来都一样。她的团队证明在东京7月大的小孩子和在西雅图7个月大的小孩子对于这种不同的声调反应是一样的。但是当他们到十一个月大的时候,日本婴儿已经失去了很大一部分的这种能力。

Time out — how do you test a baby? By tracking eye gaze. Make a fun toy appear on one side or the other whenever there's a particular sound. The baby quickly learns to look on that side whenever he or she hears a brand-new but similar sound. Noninvasive brain scans document how the brain is processing and imprinting language.
等一等——你如何来测试婴儿?通过追踪眼睛的注视。每当有一个特别的声音的时候,就会有一个好玩的玩具在婴儿的旁边出现。这样婴儿很快就学会了每当他(她)听到一个全新的但又相似的声音的时候,就会朝旁边看过去。非侵入性的大脑扫描记录了大脑是如何处理和铭记语言。

Mastering your dominant language gets in the way of learning a second, less familiar one, Kuhl's research suggests. The brain tunes out sounds that don't fit.
Kuhl的研究表明:掌握你的主导语言会阻碍去学习不太熟悉的第二种语言。大脑会屏蔽掉不合适的声音。

"You're building a brain architecture that's a perfect fit for Japanese or English or French," whatever is native, Kuhl explains — or, if you're a lucky baby, a brain with two sets of neural circuits dedicated to two languages.
Kuhl解释说,不管你哪一个地方的人,你都会建立一个或者最适合日语,或者最适合英语,或者最适合法语的大脑架构。——或者,如果你是一个很幸运的婴儿,你的大脑会有二套神经线路分别专用于二种不同的语言。

It's remarkable that babies being raised bilingual — by simply speaking to them in two languages — can learn both in the time it takes most babies to learn one. On average, monolingual and bilingual babies start talking around age 1 and can say about 50 words by 18 months.
很不寻常的是,仅仅和他们用二种语言讲话,就可以使在双语环境中成长的小孩可以同时这段时间里学会两种语言,而大多数小孩只能学会一种语言。平均来讲,单语和双语小孩子都在一岁左右开始讲话,在18月的时候能够说大概50个字。

Italian researchers wondered why there wasn't a delay, and reported this month in the journal Science that being bilingual seems to make the brain more flexible.
意大利研究者奇怪(对双语小孩为什么没有延迟),他们在这个月的《科学》杂志上报告说,说双语似乎会使得大脑更加灵活。

The researchers tested 44 12-month-olds to see how they recognized three-syllable patterns — nonsense words, just to test sound learning. Sure enough, gaze-tracking showed the bilingual babies learned two kinds of patterns at the same time — like lo-ba-lo or lo-lo-ba — while the one-language babies learned only one, concluded Agnes Melinda Kovacs of Italy's International School for Advanced Studies.
研究者们测试了44个12个月大的婴儿去看他们如何辨别三音节的发音方式——毫无意义的话,仅仅用来测试对声调的学习。果然,视线追踪显示双语婴儿在同一时间掌握了二种不同的声音——像lo-ba-lo或lo-lo-ba——而单语婴儿只掌握了一种。这是意大利International School for Advanced Studies的Agnes Melinda Kovacs得出一个结论。

While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty.
虽然你7岁的时候学习一种新语言是最容易的,但是青春期之后这个能力会明显地下降。

"We're seeing the brain as more plastic and ready to create new circuits before than after puberty," Kuhl says. As an adult, "it's a totally different process. You won't learn it in the same way. You won't become (as good as) a native speaker."
Kuhl说:“我们看到的是,和青春期之后相比,大脑在青春期之前更具有可塑性和更容易去建立新的线路。作为一个成人,这是一个完全不同的过程。你不可能用相同的方法去学习。你不会成为一个和讲母语的人讲得一样好的人。

Yet a soon-to-be-released survey from the Center for Applied Linguistics, a nonprofit organization that researches language issues, shows U.S. elementary schools cut back on foreign language instruction over the last decade. About a quarter of public elementary schools were teaching foreign languages in 1997, but just 15 percent last year, say preliminary results posted on the center's Web site.
然而,一项由应用语言学中心(一个研究语言问题的非盈利组织)即将发布的调查结果表明,在过去的十年中美国小学减少了外语的教学。在1997年大约四分之一的公共小学正在教外语,不过去年仅仅只有15%,以上是这个中心在他们网站公布的初布结果。

What might help people who missed their childhood window? Baby brains need personal interaction to soak in a new language — TV or CDs alone don't work. So researchers are improving the technology that adults tend to use for language learning, to make it more social and possibly tap brain circuitry that tots would use.
什么可能帮助那些错过童年学习时机的人?婴儿的大脑需要个人互动来吸引新的语言——仅仅靠电视或CD是没有用的。所以研究人员正在改进这些成年人用来学习语言的技术,让它更具有交际性和很可能用到婴儿可能利用到的大脑线路。

Recall that Japanese "L" and "R" difficulty? Kuhl and scientists at Tokyo Denki University and the University of Minnesota helped develop a computer language program that pictures people speaking in "motherese," the slow exaggeration of sounds that parents use with babies.
还记得日本人在“L”和“R”上的困难?Kuhl和东京Denki大学以及明尼苏达州大学的科学家们帮助开发了一款计算机语言程序,这个程序中显示出人们用妈妈语讲话,妈妈语就是父母对婴儿使用的那种缓慢的、夸张的声调。

Japanese college students who'd had little exposure to spoken English underwent 12 sessions listening to exaggerated "Ls" and "Rs" while watching the computerized instructor's face pronounce English words. Brain scans — a hair dryer-looking device called MEG, for magnetoencephalography — that measure millisecond-by-millisecond activity showed the students could better distinguish between those alien English sounds. And they pronounced them better, too, the team reported in the journal NeuroImage.
一些很少有机会接触英语口语的日本大学生,经历了12场听力训练,专门听那些夸张的“Ls”和“Rs”的发音同时还要看电脑合成的英语老师拼读这些单词发音的面部表情。通过一个叫MEG,看上去像头发吹风机的仪器对大脑里面每一毫秒的活动进行扫描,扫描的结果显示出这个学生可以更好地区分那些陌生的英语发音。而且他们的发音也会变得更好,以上是《神经图》杂志上面报道的结果。

"It's our very first, preliminary crude attempt but the gains were phenomenal," says Kuhl.
Kuhl说:“它正是我们的第一次、初步的、简陋的尝试,但是它的收获是很了不起的。”

But she'd rather see parents follow biology and expose youngsters early. If you speak a second language, speak it at home. Or find a play group or caregiver where your child can hear another language regularly.
不过她更希望看到父母们能够遵循生理习性让小孩尽早地接触第二外语。如果你能讲第二语言,那么你在家里就要讲。或者找到一个能够让你的孩子能够经常听到另外一种语言的玩伴或者保姆。

"You'll be surprised," Kuhl says. "They do seem to pick it up like sponges."
Kuhl说:“你绝对想不到的,他们确实看上去掌握另一种语言就像海锦吸水一样。”
___
EDITOR's NOTE — Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.

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