Birdsong applied to how humans learn language

Cristina Robinson, Kate Snyder and Nicole Creanza investigate how songbirds are helping scientists understand the difficulties of language learning by humans

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Listening to birds singing is a fascination shared by many people. Just like children learn to talk, songbirds have to learn all the notes of a song. Most songbird’s repertoire is either an elaborate array of tunes or a simple melody, and the length of time available to learn songs varies between bird species. Some birds only have a short amount of time to learn songs, while others learn different tunes their whole lives. Similarly, children find it easy to learn a new language. But only for a short time. As adults, the ability to learn new languages diminishes. Researchers from Vanderbilt University, Cristina Robinson, Kate Snyder and Nicole Creanza, hope to understand why learning behaviour in humans changes over time, by investigating the links between the evolution of songbird's brains and their ability to learn songs. Explore this fascinating article, Complex birdsongs help biologists piece together the evolution of lifelong learning, published by The Conversation. 

Gabrielle Ahern

Managing Editor, npj Science of Learning Community

I am based in Queensland, Australia, and have an interesting portfolio of skills, experience and qualifications in science research and content creation.