Researchers say language learning begins in the womb
By STEVEN PERLBERG
January 24, 2013
When Dr. Raul Artal, director of obstetrics at St. Mary’s Health Center, counseled his own pregnant daughter last year, he told her to play music to soothe her gestating baby.
Now a new study shows that Artal’s infant grandson may have learned language skills — in addition to his mother’s taste in music — during his time in the womb.
The study out of Tacoma, Wash., and Stockholm, Sweden, shows that during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, babies glean language information from their mothers. The findings mark one of the first times scientists have seen evidence that language learning begins in utero.
Researchers examined 80 American and Swedish infants – an even mix of girls and boys. Thirty hours after the babies were born, researchers outfitted them with headphones that played vowel sounds in both their native tongue and the foreign language.
Pacifiers wired to a computer measured the babies’ reactions to the different sounds.
The more a baby sucked after hearing a computer-generated vowel, the more she demonstrated interest in that particular language-specific sound.
Researchers found that the newborns sucked longer for the foreign language, suggesting that the infants already had a familiarity with their native tongue at birth.
The researchers concluded that the babies in both countries, not yet 2 days old, had learned prenatally to differentiate between sounds and languages.
Read the full article at http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/health/researchers-say-language-learning-begins-in-the-womb/article_0006fa34-e03e-5c15-8ff5-3ea4016d344c.html