UofT study finds toddlers are ‘surprisingly sophisticated’ at understanding accents

According to a new study from the University of Toronto toddlers and small children have a much better comprehension of foreign and unknown accents than previously thought, or, in short: baby-talking to toddlers and small children might not be needed after all.

“Fifteen-month-olds typically say relatively few words, yet they can learn to understand someone with a completely unfamiliar accent. This shows that infants’ language comprehension abilities are surprisingly sophisticated,” according to UofT associate Psychology professor Elizabeth K. Johnson.

This means that adults speaking to a child in Australian English, American English, or British English can be understood fairly quickly by youngsters, even if the children themselves don’t say too much yet, possessing similar understanding skills to adults who take longer to fully comprehend accents.

The findings are based on two studied recently published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and in Language Learning and Development.

Women of the week: Hina Rizvi

Hina Rizvi figured out her role in this world very early on. “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, since I was very young,” she tells me.

To be fair, Rizvi is still what many would define as young. But this makes her success in her field all the more remarkable.

She received her law degree from the University of East London in London, UK. After graduating at the top of her class in 2008, Rizvi set out to conquer the legal world. While working in the field, she would gain an important mentor, a sole practitioner, who, she says, “gave me the confidence to not only be a lawyer but an entrepreneur.”

Yes, not willing to be simply a cog in an established legal firm, in November of 2012 Rizvi set out on her own. The reasons for going solo, she says, are threefold:

“One, I have more freedom to choose cases; two, it’s a better investment [in terms of salary and economy control]; and I can expand into New York. Not all firms have New York clients.”

She chose a good time to explore an independent firm, as clients are starting to look beyond established Bay Street firms. One reason is the cost: solo practitioners’ fees are lower than those of Bay Street, yet they still have the resources to provide clients with quality services.

Rizvi has an extra edge, as she has UK experience and has qualified for the bar in both Ontario and New York. In this new “localized” corporate world, she provides her clients the option of having one lawyer serve their needs across borders.

She also understands the need to adjust and work within the client’s specific needs, as her international education, she says, “opens your mind to different morals and principles.”

“It is very important where the client is coming from […] what their values are.”

One of Rizvi’s areas of specialty is collaborative law, a legal option for divorcing parties. It is an area Rizvi would like to be more well known. “Quite a few people are not aware of it, and would pursue this option if they were aware of it,” she says.

Collaborative law allows her to help people minimize the negative effects of a divorce, as it “promotes out of court settlements between families” and “healthy relationships between families,” which is important when children are involved and the parties need to work together.

As well, Rizvi, through social media, is doing her part to help the general public become more aware of the legal process. Using her blog (“blawg”), she defines areas of the law to her readers. This initiative of hers allows people the chance to learn more about areas of the law on their own time.

With an impressive resume so early in her career, Rizvi is sure to go far. Yet she is quick to stress that she is not done the learning process.

“I am still adapting and developing myself as a person and lawyer,” she says.

It is safe to say these future permutations will be an asset to the legal field.

Newsflash: April 10, 2014

Jim Flaherty has passed away, Patrick Brazeau back in the slammer, Pauline Marois turns down payday, Quebec Liberals will bring back secular charter, massive layoffs hit CBC, Sarah Thomson unveils first leg of transit plan, and a New Brunswick abortion clinic is shutting its doors.

Former Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty died today in his Ottawa home at the age of 64 only one short month after resigning his position. His final tweet: “It has been an honour to serve Canada. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Suspended Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau spent the night at the police station after cops were called to a Gatieau home where Brazeau was apparently wasted and found to be in possession of cocaine on top of assaulting someone. Looks like Patrick keeps getting so high he thinks his charity boxing match against Trudeau is still raging on.

Pauline Marois became the first premier to ever turn down their severance pay after the loss of an election/seat, saving the taxpayers over $180,000. It’s a shame it took her this long to do something worthwhile. But, of course, she can always court some extra shady cash from some other engineering firms if need be.

The new Liberal government in Quebec will continue on with their own version of the divisive secular charter that the PQ crafted. It won’t end in firings for public servants like the PQ charter would, Coulliard assures. Uhh… Well at least he isn’t a separatist.

The CBC has announced they will cut 657 jobs and won’t compete for pro sports rights any more to make up for funding lost from the government and revenue shortfalls. The hashtag #CBCcuts was trending on Twitter with many journalists expressing greif for their peers who might soon be unemployed. The layoffs will be spread over two years and will most likely hurt the sports division of the Corps. Say, don’t the feds always promise they’ll be creating jobs for Canadians?

Sarah Thomson announced the first leg of her transit plan today on CP24 that includes full funding for a Yonge Street relief line through tolls on the DVP and Gardiner expressway. The rest of the plan is under wraps for now, literally, with the other portions of her graphics covered up. The rest is expected to be unveiled some time over the next few weeks.

A New Brunswick private abortion clinic is closing its doors at the end of July after being unable to receive government funding to provide abortions. Abortions are available at two hospitals in NB, however provincial restrictions state that patrons must first get two doctors to sign off on the procedure being ‘medically necessary’ — a definition that can mean almost anything.




The best tweets from #DayOfPink



Meet Valeria Lukyanova — the ‘Human Barbie’

Some girls like to play with Barbies and dream of becoming her, and for Valeria Lukyanova that apparently became a reality — with a little help from plastic surgery and makeup.


See a resemblance?


Valeria is known not only for her Barbie doll looks but also some of the more, um, interesting views she has. For example, in February she announced she acheived her thin waistline when she converted to Breatharianism, the practice of only absorbing water and sunlight for nutrients (also known as anorexia).

human barbie

She also came clean in August, 2013 to the Daily Beast about her contact with extraterrestrials. “My communication with aliens is not verbal — we speak the language of light. I have learned a lot from my contact with them. Now I know that my spirit is very old. And also that humans are the least sophisticated civilization — we’re on the lowest level of evolution.”


She also said some vaguely racist stuff to GQ in April 2014, stating that “ethnicities are mixing now, so there’s degeneration, and it didn’t used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this.” Um, what?


Finally some evidence that you need food to think properly.


Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

RECIPE WEEK: Healthy hot cocoa

Woman of the Week Ann Barnes, has provided us with her delicious recipe for healthy hot cocoa. Give it a try when you’re looking for a tasty, guilt-free treat.


  • 2 Cups Rice Milk (raw nut milk)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup (or raw Agave Nectar)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Roasted Hemp Hearts
  • 1 Teaspoons ground Chia
  • 1/8 Teaspoon vanilla extract (1/4 tsp raw ground vanilla)
  • Pinch of both pinch cinnamon and nutmeg

Cooking instructions:


  1. Blend the roasted hemp hearts along with 1/4 cup of the rice milk in a blender until smooth.
  2. Add cocoa, syrup, chia, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg & blend.
  3. Add the 1.5 remaining rice milk to a sauce pan and place on stove top element.
  4. Put on medium heat.
  5. Take the blended mixture and add while stirring to the rice milk.
  6. Heat to desired temperature.
  7. For a frothy “top” place 1 tablespoon hemp hearts and 2 tablespoons water in a blender – blend until fluffy and top off the hot cocoa with it.
  8. Note: For a “new flavour” try adding 1 tablespoon of orange juice.


Newsflash: April 8,2014

Quebec has a federalist Liberal government and Pauline and the PQ are out out out, fourth time could be the charm for man continually charged with murder of Hamilton woman, Theresa Spence was allegedly not idle when he dipped into band money, and some guy totally lost it in a Vancouver Tim Hortons.


Pauline Marois and the PQ lost yesterday’s Quebec election, essentially handing a majority to their Liberal opponents. With the PQ’s defeat many are saying that the vote was also a loss for the concept of Quebec sovereignty and the proposed charter of “values” (read: racism), although as reported in The Beaverton, since Pauline Marois failed to secure her own seat she was the first public sector employee to lose her job as a result of the charter.

Robert Badgerow is facing charges for the murder Diane Werendowicz for the fourth time. Hamilton police are certain that this is the guy who, after having sex with the nursing assistant, strangled her and threw her in a ditch by her apartment 33 years ago — although no conviction has stuck — and another woman who was attacked by the same ravine identified him. After 33 years this case might be forever stuck in OJ territory.

The partner of Theresa Spence, vocal leader of the Idle No More Movement, has been charged with fraud and theft. While Harper didn’t seem to care too much about the outcome of the Quebec vote bringing in a federalist government he no doubt enjoyed this news quite a bit.

Some guy leveled a downtown Vancouver Tim Hortons after he was asked to line up before placing his order. The man threw chairs through windows, ripped a debit machine off the counter, and destroyed the furnishings of the coffee shop. Funny, he seems to be acting out the rage felt inside everyone who has ever seen some asshole bypass the line they are patiently waiting in to place their order like they are the Queen of England. Jerk.

Newsflash: April 3, 2014 | We read the news so you don’t have to

New revelations in Ford warrants (surprise, it’s grimy, grimy stuff), Eve Adams didn’t get a good wash at a gas station car wash and the PMO got involved, John Tory has secret admirers in his press releases, Canadians don’t tip well, and Pauline Marois finally got too crazy even for Quebec politics.

The final release in the series of Rob Ford search warrant ITOs contains threats of physical harm in the ghetto, claims of dirty cops, and mentions of a Ford driver and “Juiceman” terrorizing Etobicoke. Ford jumped the gun be declaring his proven innocence when the police announced later the investigation is still ongoing. With the last of the warrant information released, however, Torontonians are left feeling just like when the last Twilight book came out.

Conservative MP Eve Adams’ rough week just got worse. The latest troubles surfacing around the scandal plagued Tory involve a supposed tantrum at an Ottawa area gas station when her car wash wasn’t up to snuff and her newly unemployed (and likely fired) boyfriend Dimitri Soudas coming forward to say the only reason he involved himself in her riding matters was because she had suffered a head injury. Note to Rob Ford: a head injury could be a great excuse.

John Tory has been accused of making up quotes in a press release that attributes Tory praise to “XXXXX” in what looks like a place holder for a name to be plugged in. Other candidates were quick to mock the mistake while poor XXXXX Smith cried once again over the awful, awful name his parents gave him.

Pauline Marois and the PQ look poised to lose the April 7th election and detailed analysis puts the Liberals in majority territory while many journalists have starting writing the PQ leader’s political obituary, cause of death given as insanity. No religious funeral, please.

Canadians are apparently bad tippers, according to some folks down in the US where tipping culture is very big. Thankfully Ottawa found something that it is good at, and that is tipping. Good for you Ottawa. You really needed this.


Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Ford’s words in a child’s mouth: An allegory for the media’s sense of entitlement in politics

With election season fully underway and a slew of non-campaign-but-close videos hitting the web it was only a matter of time before Rob Ford’s now infamous crack cocaine denials made the rounds on social media yet again, but even those suffering from Ford Fatigue can appreciate this new take.

“Rob Ford’s words in the mouth of a child” takes near direct quotes from Ford’s denial and later admission of smoking crack cocaine and puts them in the context of a frustrated father dealing with a daughter who left a “crack” in a window after playing inside.

The short leaves viewers by stating “our children are listening” evoking concerns of the example being set for youth by Toronto’s mayor. The issue it presents isn’t an example of a child mimicking smoking crack or associating with gangs and drug dealers (in fact the girl in the video is doing homework when her father comes in and is only guilty of tossing a ball around indoors) but taking from him the lesson that constant lies and denials wont land you in any hot water and can, in fact, leave you better off than you were before. Uh oh, seems like one of those pesky situations where parents might have to explain right from wrong to their kids.

Media knows best

The real draw in this video isn’t the lines you’ve heard ad nauseam for the past year, it’s the reaction of the father character as he deals with his unruly child. It isn’t exactly clear if the father is supposed to represent the electorate of Toronto (you know, those people still polling Rob Ford in the 30% range) or the frustrated reporters and journalists of the media who have stopped short of declaring all out war on Ford the Man and Ford the Mayor.

What is missing from the father/daughter scenario is a clear punishment — a smart mouth like that would still land children over their father’s knee in a lot of households, the same way voters have the ability to boot out Ford in the fall.

The hands up what-the-heck-can-I-do-here response from the father here seems more in tune with the reaction of many in the media right now. “We’ve done all we can” is a common subtext to much of the reporting and comment on Ford at this point. “We’ve caught him in his lies, exposed the scandal, and now there is nothing more we can do! But look how awful he is! Why aren’t you listening to us? Boy are we mad!” Mad indeed.

Most stories at Toronto’s dailies now completely and totally count out Ford as a viable candidate in the current election period. We’re told regularly that there is no point in portraying him as anything other than a cartoonish style super villain because of his lies. He lied about crack, he lied about saving a billion dollars, and who knows what else he has lied about.

But still, despite being reduced to nothing but a few shreds of good press over the last year, Ford still polls well into the territory it would take to secure another mandate at the helm of this city.

The father of the Ford quoting girl represents Toronto’s media in sense that they are both throwing their hands up in reaction to the situation. They are both stuck dealing with lies and denials, and although they want nothing more in the world, they simply cannot correct this behaviour. The difference is that fathers have a responsibility to correct the behaviour of their children.

The media entitlement and desire to control the outcome of this election has become a heavy and insufferable inflated ego that has wedged its way into all of the coverage around Ford and his opponents.

In an age where our politics are almost always presented through a lens it is irresponsible and undemocratic for the media to try and make up our minds for us.  The father in the video can spank his child and send her to her room, but as much as the journalists and reporters who make up the media in Toronto wish they could do the same to Ford they simply have no such right.


Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

ROUND UP: The 7 best April Fool’s Day pranks in Canada for 2014

Now that April Fool’s Day is behind us — and the fear of being pranked by a friend or co-worker has subsided for another year — we can take stock of the great year it was for pranks here in Canada.

7) In Toronto the TTC went E.T. when they spotted some aliens.

TTC alien abduction

6) In Hamilton a prank went wrong and ended in arrest.

april fools

5) In Halton the police announced plans to train cats for police work.

halton april fools

4) In Toronto the TTC announced plans for condos on subway platforms.

3) In Toronto Distl determined the condo market is too saturated on earth and announced plans to start building on the moon.

distl lunar

2) Roots drops the beaver from their logo in favour of a loon.

1) WestJet converts to metric time



Did we miss any great ones? Tweet to @WomensPost and let us know!