LAN­GUAGE starts IN THE WOMB

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

Talk­ing to your baby while he is in utero can help de­velop his lan­guage skills, re­search re­veals. New­borns recog­nise voices they hear in the third trimester, and show a pref­er­ence for the voices of mum and oth­ers they’re fa­mil­iar with. Ba­bies also have a pref­er­ence for lan­guages with the same rhythm as their birth moth­ers – the lan­guage they hear in utero.

Psy­cholin­guist Pro­fes­sor Anne Cut­ler says the be­lief that ba­bies don’t learn pho­nemes – the small­est units of sound that make up words and lan­guage that dis­tin­guish one word from an­other, such as ‘bag’ and ‘tag’ – un­til the sec­ond six months of life, is be­ing chal­lenged.

New re­search shows ba­bies can dis­tin­guish pat­terns of sound, and ap­ply that knowl­edge later in life. Anne says we should talk to ba­bies when they are still in the womb be­cause it helps them pick up use­ful knowl­edge about lan­guage – and just be­cause they en­joy be­ing talked to.

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