Babies learn native language in the womb
In practice, it appears that small children can very easily learn several languages. Little is known about the rapid learning process of children with regard to language. Recently, a new study was conducted on this at the Pacific Luthern University of Washington. This research yielded a surprising result. The results showed that the learning process with regard to language already starts in the womb.
Learning process starts earlier than expected
Previously, it was known that babies can distinguish between different languages very early after birth. But it was not known that this process already starts in the womb. According to this study at Luthern University of Washington, babies develop their hearing mechanism especially around the 30th week of pregnancy, which allows them to pick up sounds from outside the womb. A pregnancy normally lasts around 40 weeks. The mother is the first real influence on the brain of the fetus. For the last 10 weeks, fetuses begin to listen to the mother’s talk. It is the vowels uttered by the mother that can be heard loudest by the fetus. In this context we talk about absorbing the language.
For this study, 80 babies were studied, both boys and girls, ranging from 7 to 75 hours after birth. 40 babies were examined in Washington in the United States and 40 babies were examined in Stockholm in Sweden. Half of the babies studied heard 17 sounds in their native language and the other half of the babies heard 17 sounds in a foreign language. To measure the babies’ response to the sounds, the researchers used a pacifier with a sensor connected to a computer. When the babies suckled on the pacifier, they heard sounds. When they stopped sucking, the sound stopped too.
The study found that babies continued to suck the pacifier more often and for longer when they heard sounds in a foreign language. The babies were clearly more curious about these new sounds. The researchers claim that this response from the babies shows that there is an early learning process that has already begun in the womb. Babies can clearly distinguish between the familiar sounds and the ones they didn’t know yet. The researchers would like to gain more insight into how it is possible for young children to learn languages so easily. One of them states, “We want to know what magic they use in their early lives that no longer exists for adults. We can’t let that early curiosity go to waste.
Need more research
This research is an important step in the right direction to learn more about this magical learning process in children. Obviously, much more research is needed, because the great secret behind this has not yet been fully unraveled. The results of this research were published in January 2013 in the scientific journal Acta Paediatrica.