Synapses The total amount of synapses changes with age and it is affected by genetic factors and environmental stimulation.
The dendrites (structures that receive neural information from other neurons) make adjustments in several places in order to increase or to decrease their surface depending on environmental stimulation and on learning.
Brain’s growth indexes The neuronal density The dendrites development The synaptic density 3 synaptogenesis steps: The fourth synaptogenesis step goes from the 3rd to the 8th year of life. In this period the number of synapses is very high (about 600-900 millions per mm3) and it strongly depends on environmental experiences. The fifth synaptogenesis step starts before puberty. In this period the number of synapses gradually decreases. In the old age there is a strong reduction of synapses density.
Language acquisition and development of the brain 1)The phase of BABBLING: at about 5-6 months old. 2) The phase of the firsts words: at about 1 year old. 3) The grammatical phase: at about 20-37 months old the kid starts to produce sentences and makes morphological regularizations.
Language in the brain Language contains: - “Opened Class” words (these words increase constantly their number): nouns, verbs and adjectives. - “Closed class” words (these words do not increase): articles, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, possessive and demonstrative adjectives.
Language in the brain To know a language means be able to properly and automatically use CLOSED CLASS WORDS
ConclusionsChildren can become bilingual if they implicitly learn a foreign language (e.g. through “Narrative Format” approach), before 8 years of age.
WHAT IS BILINGUALISM AND WHATDOES IT ENTAIL? Bilingualism should not be regarded as special: it is very common in many parts of the world. Children learn to speak without any effort, very much like learning to walk. The human brain is able to cope very well with more than one language and early childhood is the best period for becoming bilingual, because the brain is highly flexible and children are very interested in learning language. Children can learn two or more languages if they have enough input and they have enough motivation and enjoyment. Bilingual children are able to recognise their two languages and differentiate them from a very young age.
Advantages of bilingualism Bilingual children have an early/precocious knowledge of the words, structures and sounds of their languages. Bilingual children often learn to read earlier than others, especially if both are alphabetic languages, and have an enhanced ability to learn other languages. Bilingual children are better able to focus attention, they are less likely to be distracted by irrelevant information and are better able to switch between tasks. Many of these benefits of bilingualism have been also found in adults who were raised with two languages from childhood.
Disadvantages Some bilingual children start to speak a bit later than monolinguals, but they soon make up for it. Bilingual children may initially have a reduced vocabulary in each of their languages, although their total vocabulary may be larger than the vocabulary of a monolingual child. Bilingual children sometimes mix both languages together, but not randomly: the use of words from the other language is often motivated by the wish to communicate in a more fluent or effective way and occurs in situations where the child knows that he/she will be understood, for example when addressing another bilingual speaker.