Team of researchers at the University of Waterloo have dedicated a research study to language processing skills of toddlers. As per the study, the process of word learning skills among toddlers accelerates when their exposure to young children increases.
For the study, experts compared word processing skills of toddlers among adults and those who were in more proximity of young children, for instance at the day care centre. The results confirmed that although all children were good at processing child speech, toddlers who spent more time with other children could associate a new word to a new object more often in comparison.
With 88 toddler participants and their parents, the experts conducted two experiments. Among the participants, some spent eight hours or less with other children per week, while others had more weekly activities in child groups.
The first experiment made comparisons between pronunciation of familiar words between seven-year-olds and adults. The second experiment evaluated the sensitivity of toddler’s speech when a child speaker mispronounced an object’s name.
According to the experts, child speech differs from adult speech in several ways, this also includes six or seven year olds, whose pronunciation varies from the adults. The study focuses on the effect of exposure to hearing other children speak on toddlers’ ability in processing child speech.
The results of the study conclude that toddlers are good at processing speech of young children, even if they do not have a lot of experience with other children. As quoted by professor of psychology at Waterloo, Katherine White, toddlers could use this kind of speech, in addition to adult speech to learn their native language.
While most of the research focuses on how toddlers pick up on a language from their adult speakers, the researchers at Waterloo have explored how toddlers process speech of children belonging to various age groups. Additionally they also examine how much speech the toddlers use to guide their own language learning.