Study Shows That Parents Have a Particular Method of Speaking to Their Toddler to Help Them Learn Language

A study has found that parents unconsciously develop a particular way to talk to their toddlers, which helps build their syntax and vocabulary. Scientists believe that this discovery could help boost artificial intelligence (AI).

Scientists could use the process used by children to learn a language to improve machine learning tools

The idea to harness a toddler’s ability to learn a language to develop better machine learning tools is not a new one. Alan Turing, a codebreaker in World War II, made the suggestion about 70 years ago.

In 1950, Turing said that we should stop producing a program similar to the adult mind and instead simulate a child’s mind. Scientists can do this by creating neural networks that mimic the brains of children under 2.

Psychologists suggest that parents have precise knowledge of their children’s words and use it to modify how they speak when addressing them.

Parents gradually increase the complexity of interaction as children learn a language

 It has long been understood that to talk to their children, parents often simplify their speech, stretch out vowels and reduplicate words. However, until the study, no one knew that parents constantly change how they talk as their toddlers learn the language.

When speaking to toddlers, parents talk slower and in a higher pitch. They also simplify their language structure and use repetition and ask numerous questions to see what the child has gotten so far. As they become better with language, the parents increase the level of complexity.

According to Dr. Daniel Yurovsky, a lead author from Carnegie Mellon University, scientists can compare the learning process to learning math. Students usually start with a more straightforward problem, which will then help them solve more complex ones. Without knowing it, parents also track their toddlers’ level of understanding before using more complex language.

In the study, the researchers gathered toddlers aged between 15 and 23 months. Parents were asked to play a game with their children where they picked an animal out of 3 others. Some of the animals were common ones, such as cats or dogs. Others like peacocks were less common. The researchers took note of variations in how parents speak to their toddlers.

Parents used what they knew about their children’s language before they started and changed how they talked about a particular word if they realized it was unfamiliar.

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