Aside from cries, grunts and giggles, all babies start out their life exactly the same - linguistically silent bundles of flesh with no perceivable identity and belonging not to any particular country or society - only to the human race. And every single baby in the entire world begins the process of belonging the exact same way by first learning to communicate in a language. First they observe in silence their surroundings until their speech production system has developed at around 3-5 months, then for the next 5-7 months they play with this system to produce a series of increasing complex phonetic sounds until around the 1 year mark where they start to produce their first words. The category of words and the order they produce them are the same across all cultures. Generally speaking, for at least the first year of every baby's life, there is no perceivable difference in each baby's learning style. They all learn the exact same thing - language - in the exact same way. Although I do not deny the reality that we all have a unique way of learning, this seemingly uniform way of learning (at least a language) with which we all start our lives causes me to wonder when do we start to be unique. Also, since this uniform process of learning a language we all undertake is still grossly unknown, as a global society, which style of learning is more important to understand - the style unique to each individual human, or the style unique to the human race?
Here is a little evidence of how shared this language learning process actually is. Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK) - adults who were raised in various environments and cultures due to a constant geographically changing lifestyle - often need to adapt to new environments throughout their entire life and as such develop similar strategies of how they do so. The first goal is to learn how individuals in this environment communicate and they do this by being very observant of everyone's style of communication. This need to be observant naturally causes a ATCK to be silent. Only after a certain period of relative silence (of course they speak to some degree - they are not going to respond to questions directed at them with silence) do they feel they understand how people in the target environment communicate and therefore have the confidence to emulate them. This process of analyzing communicative norms in ones environment by spending a good amount of observant silence is also what babies do for the majority of their first year of life. It is interesting that an adult (with his or her unique learning style in tact), would adopt the same habit as a baby when attempting to assimilate into a foreign culture. This speaks of learning at a level that transcends individual uniqueness to a level of human uniqueness. I want to understand this level of learning more than anything else in the world.
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