Speaking to your baby before birth might make you feel like you’re talking to yourself, but a new study shows that babies absorb language even before they’re born.
If you want to give your child a solid language foundation, start having discussions with him before you ever meet him. Research shows that babies can already tell the difference between their mother’s language and a foreign language just hours after birth.
Evidence of Infant Language Understanding
How can researchers tell that babies understand language? Patricia K. Kuhl, a professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington, led a study to find out more about babies and language. The results were published in the Acta Paediatrica.
In the study, Kuhl and her colleagues gave 80 infants high-tech pacifiers that measured the babies’ reactions to the sounds around them. The infants in the study were from Washington and Sweden with an average age of 30 hours old.
While sucking on the pacifiers, the babies listened to vowel sounds from their own language as well as those from a foreign tongue. Past studies have already established that babies suck on their pacifier more frequently when exposed to familiar sounds. The study revealed that the babies sucked on their pacifiers in shorter, more frequent bursts when hearing native vowel sounds as compared to sounds from another language.
The ability to discern languages at only 30 hours old suggests that babies begin hearing and understanding their mothers while in the womb.
How to Implement Prenatal Language Absorption
Babies in the womb can hear their mother’s voice because her body amplifies anything she says. Outside sounds don’t penetrate the womb, though, so your baby won’t learn his father’s voice until after he is born. It’s also not worthwhile to place headphones on your belly with music playing since it won’t be heard by your baby.
The womb is a noisy place where outside noises are muddled and difficult to discern. To help you understand what it sounds like, lie down in the tub with your ears under the water and move your arms and legs around.
When you speak to your baby in the womb, use calm, relaxing tones. Avoid screaming and using violent language. The more you speak to your baby, both before birth and after, the better.