Toddlers learn to speak by simply using small, familiar words to acquire harder ones, new research says, throwing a curveball at scientists who assumed a more complex cognitive system. Youngsters can rapidly go from spouting babble to intelligible chatter as long as their words have varying levels of difficulty, Scientific American reports.
Between ages 1 and 2, kids acquire language in a process the lead researcher of a study released today likens to collecting jelly beans: Words pile up in a jar as they are heard. Larger jars collect larger words; once the jar is full, the word is learned. The learning curve helps explain why some kids learn faster than others.