My love affair with language acquisition started to hot up when I was 16. Instead of taking English Literature A’ Level I took English Language. The careers officer told me that if I was interested in journalism (I was) as a career that this would be the more relevant option. I was just glad I didn’t have to analyse Shakespeare texts for another two years.
English Language A Level??!?
Over the next two years I studied the history of the English Language. Some monk named Bede popped up a fair bit. We wrote articles in different styles, we learnt grammar from scratch. Quite a shock to get to 16 and not understand why a sentence is constructed as it is – very enlightening. If you fancy learning more I recommend anything by David Crystal. What stuck in my head most was Language Acquisition (Chomsky vs Piaget / Genetics vs environment), Phonetics and Discourse Analysis.
The obsession starts with language acquisition
There was a nursery at the Sixth Form College and we got to sit in with the kids with tape recorders (yes ancient) and record and learn from how they responded to questions and conversed with each other. I couldn’t get enough. Little would I know how much this whole area would come to absorb my life when 15 years later I went to work at The Makaton Charity. Then leave to build my own business around a language development software platform called MyChoicePad. With my next venture Iris Speaks I want to raise awareness and encourage the general public to re/discover and enjoy language and communication.
Watch and learn
If you are as fascinated by me on how our brains deal with language acquisition or maybe you’ve got a little one at home or a grandchild and are amazed at how fast they develop. Then I really recommend you give yourself 20 minutes break to watch this TED talk. It combines by loves for language acquisition and tech.
MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language — so he wired up his house with video cameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son’s life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch “gaaaa” slowly turn into “water.” Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn.
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Info Box: Who benefits from Speech and Language Therapy?
Speech and language therapy benefits people of all ages, for example:
Infants: SLTs support premature babies and infants with conditions such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate and Down syndrome from very early in life who have difficulties with drinking, swallowing and early play and communication skills.
Children: SLTs support children with primary speech, language and communication difficulties, such as stammering, as well as speech, language and communication difficulties that are secondary to other conditions such as learning difficulties and hearing problems.
Adults with learning difficulties: SLTs support adults who have developmental conditions such as learning disabilities, autism and Down syndrome.
Adults: SLTs support adults with communication and/or swallowing difficulties as a result of medical conditions, such as stroke, head and neck cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.