15 February 2013

'Bilingual babies' can tell languages apart

Study found even seven-month-olds can start to learn both languages.


Babies as young as seven months can tell one language from another and begin to learn them even if they have very different rules of grammar, a new study suggests.

The authors discovered that babies use pitch and the duration of spoken words to figure out that languages are different.

"By as early as seven months, babies are sensitive to these differences and use these as cues to tell the languages apart," study co-author Janet Werker, a University of British Columbia psychologist, said in a university news release. "If you speak two languages at home, don't be afraid, it's not a zero-sum game. Your baby is very equipped to keep these languages separate, and they do so in remarkable ways."

Babies who grew up bilingual

"Babies growing up bilingual... develop new strategies that monolingual babies don't necessarily need to use," added study co-author Judit Gervain, a linguist at the Paris Descartes University.

The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications, and will be presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, in Boston.

More information

For more about child development, try the US National Library of Medicine.

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