Patricia Ryan: Don’t insist on English!

by TED Talks - 10 April 2011

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’ve lost my way, and somebody’s going to come on the stage in a minute and guide me gently back to my seat. (Applause) I get that all the time in Dubai. “Here on holiday are you, dear?” (Laughter) “Come to visit the children? How long are you staying?”

Well actually, I hope for a while longer yet. I have been living and teaching in the Gulf for over 30 years. (Applause) And in that time, I have seen a lot of changes. Now that statistic is quite shocking. And I want to talk to you today about language loss and the globalization of English. I want to tell you about my friend who was teaching English to adults in Abu Dhabi. And one fine day, she decided to take them into the garden to teach them some nature vocabulary. But it was she who ended up learning all the Arabic words for the local plants, as well as their uses — medicinal uses, cosmetics, cooking, herbal. How did those students get all that knowledge? Of course, from their grandparents and even their great-grandparents. It’s not necessary to tell you how important it is to be able to communicate across generations. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

by TED Talks - 31 March 2011

I want you to take a look at this baby. What you’re drawn to are her eyes and the skin you love to touch. But today I’m going to talk to you about something you can’t see, what’s going on up in that little brain of hers. The modern tools of neuroscience are demonstrating to us that what’s going on up there is nothing short of rocket science. And what we’re learning is going to shed some light on what the romantic writers and poets described as the “celestial openness” of the child’s mind.

What we see here is a mother in India, and she’s speaking Koro, which is a newly-discovered language. And she’s talking to her baby. What this mother — and the 800 people who speak Koro in the world — understand that, to preserve this language, they need to speak it to the babies. And therein lies a critical puzzle. Why is it that you can’t preserve a language by speaking to you and I, to the adults? Well, it’s got to do with your brain. What we see here is that language has a critical period for learning. The way to read this slide is to look at your age on the horizontal axis. (Laughter) And you’ll see on the vertical your skill at acquiring a second language. Babies and children are geniuses until they turn seven, and then there’s a systematic decline. After puberty, we fall off the map. No scientists dispute this curve, but laboratories all over the world are trying to figure out why it works this way. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world

by TED Talks - 1 September 2010

My name’s Seth Priebatsch. I’m the chief ninja of SCVNGR. I am a proud Princeton dropout. Also proud to have relocated here to Boston, where I actually grew up. Yeah, Boston. Easy wins. I should just go and name the counties that we’ve got around here. So, I’m also fairly determined to try and build a game layer on top of the world. And this is sort of a new concept, and it’s really important. Because while the last decade was the decade of social and the decade of where the framework in which we connect with other people was built, this next decade will be the decade where the game framework is built, where the motivations that we use to actually influence behavior, and the framework in which that is constructed, is decided upon, and that’s really important. 

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