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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Title: How Infant Speech Perception Contributes to Language Acquisition
Author(s): Judit Gervain , Janet F. Werker
Journal Title: Language and Linguistics Compass
Volume: 2
Issue: 6
Page Range: 1149-1170
Publication Date: Oct-2008
Abstract: Perceiving the acoustic signal as a sequence of meaningful linguistic representations is a challenging task, which infants seem to accomplish effortlessly, despite the fact that they do not have a fully developed knowledge of language. The present article takes an integrative approach to infant speech perception, emphasizing how young learners' perception of speech helps them acquire abstract structural properties of language. We introduce what is known about infants' perception of language at birth. Then, we will discuss how perception develops during the first 2 years of life and describe some general perceptual mechanisms whose importance for speech perception and language acquisition has recently been established. To conclude, we discuss the implications of these empirical findings for language acquisition.

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