In the past researchers had already shown that newborns are born ready to learn and begin to differentiate between language sounds within the first months of life. Up to now, however, there was no evidence that language learning had occurred before birth.
A study has been recently carried out in Tacoma, United States, and in Stockholm, Sweden, involving forty infants, about 30 hours old and an even mix of girls and boys. While still in the nursery, the babies listened to vowel sounds in their native tongue and in foreign languages.
Their interest in the sounds was captured by how long they sucked on a pacifier that was wired into a computer measuring the babies’ reaction to the sounds. In both countries, the babies at birth sucked longer for the foreign language than they did for their native tongue.
According to the researchers, infants are the best learners, and discovering how they take up information could give insights on lifelong learning.
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