New Russian conversation class

For those of you who would like practice speaking po-Russki, a new Russian conversation class/circle is starting up, led by a new teacher named Olga Dobrunoff. It’ll meet three Fridays a month starting this Friday (tomorrow) in room 709 Hamilton at 2:30pm. You don’t have to register, just come when you can to chat!

BBC: Babies ‘cry in mother’s tongue’

The BBC News Health section reports today on new work by a group of German researchers who studied the cries of 60 babies born to families speaking French and German. The researchers claim that babies begin to pick up the nuances of their parents’ accents while still in the womb. This acquisition is reflected in the intonation of their cries (which can be heard on the article page):

The French newborns cried with a rising “accent” while the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection.

The “melody” of the cry seems to be particularly significant in that it is one of the only aspects of a mother’s speech that a neonate is able to imitate. Imitation is crucial to communication between mother and infant, as Kathleen Wermke, who led the research, points out: “Newborns are highly motivated to imitate their mother’s behaviour in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding.”

Furthermore, she says, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying in language development. The finding that the melodic contours of the infants’ cries varied based on the language they heard while developing in the womb implies that the “content” of the cry is learned and therefore not completely innate. Crying is generally thought to serve one important but limited purpose: eliciting care and attention from a parent. However, these results suggest that it may also be important as “practice” for the language acquisition process.

American Language Program: Language Exchange Program

The Language Exchange Program, sponsored by the American Language Program, gives students the opportunity to learn a language of interest from someone who is fluent in that language, while at the same time teaching that same student the language that he is fluent in. For example, if a student is fluent in English and would like to learn Japanese, this person would be matched with someone who is fluent in Japanese and wants to learn English.

Applications are available in Lewisohn 203. Once the application has been reviewed, you will be matched with someone with a good complementary application.

Imagination and Language: The International Linguistic Association’s 54th Annual Conference

Since 1955 the International Linguistic Association has sponsored an Annual Linguistics Conference in order to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and research in progress among members of the International Linguistic Community.

The ILA’s 54th annual conference will take place this weekend (April 3-5). Papers on a wide variety of topics in languages and linguistics will be presented, and the conference will take place at St. John’s University in Manhattan.

This year’s conference will focus on the role of language and imagination in learning and teaching. Invited speakers include:

DR. ELENA KRAVTSOVA-VYGOTSKY – RUSSIAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOR HUMANITIES, MOSCOW, RUSSIA; GRANDDAUGHTER OF LEV S. VYGOTSKY

DR. MAXINE GREENE – TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, NY

DR. CLYDE COREIL – NEW JERSEY CITY UNIVERSITY, JERSEY CITY, NJ

DR. STEVEN BROWN – MCMASTER UNIVERSITY, HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA

For more information on the conference, please visit the ILA website.