Monday, November 9, 2015

TED Talk Analysis: The Linguistic Genius of Babies

The Linguistic Genius of Babies
Patricia Kuhl
              Patricia Kuhl researches and studies language and brain development. She is the co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington. This TED Talk was filmed in October 2010 (location unknown). It discusses how important and impactful development of language is in very young children. Kuhl describes what the babies are as “taking statistics” on how often they hear particular sounds and how they connect. There is a lot of emphasis on the fact that there are critical times in a child’s life for language development and the early years can drastically influence the child throughout life. As a society as a whole we have always focused on bringing children up to academic standards once they enter the school system.
              It takes a human being to influence the development and recognition of a new language. When infants are exposed to a new language through a television with audio they do not develop any more skills than infants who are solely exposed to English. However, infants exposed to a novel language in the presence of another human speaking it developed recognition of the language at the same level as babies who had parents who were native speakers of that language.
After viewing this presentation and researching the topic further I have realized that in order to improve overall development and literacy we must place more emphasis on developing children academically way before they step foot in a preschool.
Figure 1
A graph depicting the results of one of Kuhl's studies
Kuhl did a nice job of focusing on maintaining interest of her audience, keeping eye contact, speaking at the proper pace, organizing her presentation, appropriately supporting her claims with evidence, and using necessary visual aids. In order to support her presentation a visual presentation was running in the background as she presented. This aided the audience in following along because it provided graphs (as seen in Figure 1) to display the research she was discussing in her speech. Videos of the study were also integrated into the presentation in order to effectively demonstrate to the audience what had occurred in the laboratory.
              In order to improve upon the speech Kuhl could have kept the microphone away phone her mouth. The saliva sounds were very gross and distracting towards the end. This caused her voice to be less clear and difficult to focus on. She did use appropriate gestures throughout the speech but could have elaborated at times. Additionally, she could have compiled her data into one graph or visual because the point she was trying to make would have come across more strongly, in my opinion.
This is the TED Talk Kuhl gave in October 2010


  1. Your post is very interesting. I found it intriguing that infants do not develop any more skills from listening to audio of foreign languages, than listening to english speakers. Do you know anything else about Patricia Kuhl's background or research on this topic (profession, degrees, research, etc.)?

  2. She received a BA in speech sciences from St. Cloud State University and a Masters in the same type of program from University of Minnesota. Kuhl received her PhD in speech science and psychology from the University of Minnesota and currently is a professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington. She has done lots of research in this area. I agree it's really cool!