People say that it’s important for mothers to talk to their babies, even if they’re still inside the womb, and a group of researchers have found that fetuses have the ability to distinguish between different languages.
This breakthrough can potentially shed light on how babies learn to acquire different languages.
Fetuses can ‘know’ what language a person is speaking
Using cutting-edge and non-invasive techniques, researchers conducted tests on fetuses being carried by American mothers and found that the fetuses can distinguish whether or not a person is talking to them in English, or in Japanese.
The study was conducted using a biomagnetometer, which is more sensitive than ultrasound, which the researchers used to listen to the unborn child’s heartbeat while someone spoke to the child.
The researchers found that the baby responded differently and had different heartbeats when someone spoked to it in English, and in Japanese.
According to Dr. Utako Minai, associate professor of linguistics and the team leader on the study,
“Research suggests that human language development may start really early — a few days after birth. Babies a few days old have been shown to be sensitive to the rhythmic differences between languages. Previous studies have demonstrated this by measuring changes in babies’ behavior; for example, by measuring whether babies change the rate of sucking on a pacifier when the speech changes from one language to a different language with different rhythmic properties.”
“This early discrimination led us to wonder when children’s sensitivity to the rhythmic properties of language emerges, including whether it may in fact emerge before birth. Fetuses can hear things, including speech, in the womb. It’s muffled, like the adults talking in a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon, but the rhythm of the language should be preserved and available for the fetus to hear, even though the speech is muffled,” she adds.
What does this mean?
The fact that fetuses can distinguish between one language another just goes to show that their brains are developing at such a rapid pace.
This means that it’s important for parents to talk to their child in order to help them get used to hearing speech and language, since at a very early age, babies are already sensitive to the different patterns of speech within languages.
Younger kids would also have an easier time learning a foreign language if they’re exposed to it at a very young age, as younger children have the ability to learn languages faster as compared to older children and adults.
Learning a language also helps boost a child’s development, and can improve their learning, logic, and critical thinking skills.
READ: Can you guess which second language will help your kid in life the most?
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