It has long been understood that babies recognize and react to their mother’s voice from birth, but recent research is delving in further to understand when language learning begins. A new study conducted by researchers in Tacoma, Washington and Stockholm, Sweden has uncovered that during the last 10 weeks pregnancy, babies are already learning language from their mothers.
For the study, researchers worked with 80 American and Swedish babies, evenly mixed between boys and girls. Thirty hours after they were born, they equipped them with headphones and a pacifier. The headphones played vowel sounds from their native tongue and a foreign language. The pacifier measured their reactions to the sounds by measuring the rate at which the baby sucked. The quicker the baby sucked on the pacifier, the more interest they found in that particular sound.
Researchers found that the newborns sucked for longer with the foreign vowel sounds, and sucked at a much quicker rate for the familiar sounds from their mother’s native language. This suggests that the babies have a familiarity with the particular language at birth, and also language differentiation begins before birth.
This study builds on what was concluded in a 2009 study done with German and French newborns. Researchers found that the cries of newborns with a mother that spoke either language nate had different melodies to their crying, showing that the nuances of language are learned in utero.
Although research suggests that language learning begins while babies are still in the womb, doctor’s stress it is not necessary to have any special equipment to enhance your baby’s language learning while pregnant. Language learning in the womb occurs naturally, it is only necessary to use your voice.