A speaker of at least 5 languages himself, Professor Roberts explained the differences in sentence structure in languages around the world – for example, in the Nias language ‘My mother cooked the rice’ would translate in English as ‘cooked rice mother’. Students were intrigued by how many different ways the same meaning could be conveyed. Professor Roberts was extremely impressed by our students who were able to read and translate some of his sentences in Mandarin and Japanese!
We also learned about humans’ innate ability to learn language and examined rare cases of children who were never spoken to in their early childhood and then were unable to learn language in the ‘normal’ way, no matter how much tuition they received.
Students stayed for some time after the lecture to ask further questions and to get Professor Roberts’s contact details. We are extremely grateful for him making the long journey from Cambridge and look forward to seeing him again in the future!