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Berkeley Talks: How we learn language across communities and cultures

August 27, 2022
By: Public Affairs

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a child rides on mom's back as she works outside standing in water
Research from UC Berkeley professor Mahesh Srinivasan’s lab suggests that children benefit from child-directed speech when learning language, and also learn language from overheard speech, a main form of children’s early experience with language in many cultures around the world. (Photo by Esteban Benites via Unsplash)

In Berkeley Talks episode 149, Mahesh Srinivasan, an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Psychology, discusses the importance of child-directed speech in language learning, how poverty may suppress parents’ speech to their children and how children learn language from overheard speech.

“I think language learning is really one of the most amazing things that we do as human beings,” Srinivasan said. “Part of what’s so amazing about this is that children are rapidly learning their first languages seemingly better than adults can learn a language, and they’re also seeming to learn these languages without any kind of direct instruction. But one important question is, what role do parents actually play in this process?”

Srinivasan spoke in March 2022 as part of a speaker series sponsored by Science At Cal.

Mahesh Srinivasan, an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Psychology, gave a talk about language learning across communities and cultures on March 12, 2022.