February 17, 2013
7 Month Old Babies Distinguish Between Languages

The babies start learning grammatical structures early. It isn't like they have a lot else to do. Might as well start building up neuronal structures for language processing while they wait for the next bottle.

Babies as young as seven months can distinguish between, and begin to learn, two languages with vastly different grammatical structures, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Université Paris Descartes.

This is an argument for using bilingual nannies. Want your kid to learn Chinese? HIre a Chinese woman for daycare. The earlier the brain gets trained for a 2nd and 3rd language the easier it will be to learn it.

Published today in the journal Nature Communications and presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, the study shows that infants in bilingual environments use pitch and duration cues to discriminate between languages – such as English and Japanese – with opposite word orders.

In English, a function word comes before a content word (the dog, his hat, with friends, for example) and the duration of the content word is longer, while in Japanese or Hindi, the order is reversed, and the pitch of the content word higher.

I think the case for early exposure is especially strong for languages that use much different rules. The main European languages are much more like each other than they are to Japanese or Mandarin Chinese for example.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 February 17 09:39 PM 

Phillep Harding said at February 18, 2013 2:22 PM:

I wonder what effect just playing tapes of people speaking different languages would have?

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