Nature vs NurtureIt has long been debated as to whether language acquisition is innate (something we are born with) or learned. Are we all born with the genetic capability of speaking our own language? Do we recognise speech patterns immediately? Is it possible to begin structuring language compositions in our brains from such an early age? How can we separate language from other external audio stimuli when we are babies? Do we tune into the most commonly spoken words around us and gradually learn them subconsciously? There are many questions on this subject matter with the aim of discovering whether language is an innate or learned skill. The answer is it that it’s actually a bit of both.

Our brains have the innate ability to comprehend, interpret and to produce language. Several studies have shown that infants, from birth until six months old, can distinguish between the phonetics of all languages. They hone in on the most commonly spoken words and sounds used by others around them, resulting in them being able to choose their native language. After six months old, however, they can only detect the phonetics related to their chosen language. Young children of just a few years old have a grasp of the grammatical rules of language without having been taught them. A child progresses though different stages of learning their native language until, usually when they reach puberty, they are able to learn a foreign language. The ability to learn a language is innate, but actually speaking a specific language is learned. These specific languages are learned from the environment and from experience.

For example, you have the innate ability to learn German, but that doesn´t automatically mean that you can speak German. To do that, you would need to actively learn the German language. So now that you know you have a natural disposition to learn languages, book some German lessons in London or whichever city is nearest to you and put your linguistic skills to the test.