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Babies always remember their birth language – even if they never use it!

The beginning of a human life is so important as this is when the brain is rapidly developing soaking up so much information including language, emotional feelings and senses.

Babies pick up aspects of a language before birth and from a very young age learn a variety of words and their pronunciation, something which researchers in South Korea say they never forget. The study which took place at Hanyang University in Seoul was led by Dr Jiyoun Choi and found that people who learnt a native language during the first stages of life never forgot it, even if they had not used it for decades.

The process of acquiring a language starts both automatically and extremely early—before birth, during the last third of the time a baby spends in the womb.

Early Development of abstract langue knowledge 

The study tested Dutch speaking adults who were adopted as babies from South Korea, against those who have never been exposed to the Korean language. The participants were given some Korean phrases extremely different to anything in the Dutch language. Both groups were tested on Korean phrases and both performed the same, they were then given separate group training sessions and were re-tested. During the second test, those who were adopted from South Korea exceed the Dutch natives pronouncing each word with accuracy. Dr Jiyoun Choi told BBC News ”This finding indicates that useful language knowledge is laid down in [the] very early months of life, which can be retained without further input of the language and revealed via re-learning”. This is a strong indication for parents that talking to your baby is actually super beneficial both pre and post birth and children learn things from the very early stages of life which will stay with them forever.

There is a difference between baby talking and talking to your baby some researchers say. The high pitched exaggerated words which come naturally to us all when talking to a baby actually benefit young children and their linguistic development according to experts who call this baby talk – ‘parentese’. They say “Parentese helps parents and caregivers connect to their babies and helps babies develop language skills” according to PBS.org. Another study done by Roberta Golinkoff, Ph.D., director of the Infant Language Laboratory at the University of Delaware states “Babies like baby talk”. She continues “[when speaking to babies] your facial expressions are exaggerated. Your eyes open wide. That’s very appealing to a baby” says Dr. Golinkoff.

Babies always remember their birth language - even if they never use it! 1


However, some research suggests that you must talk to your baby how you would talk to an adult. According to them this will help children understand conversations earlier than if you elongate or over pronounce your words. So is there a right or wrong way to communicate with your child? A lot of the studies which have taken place state that however you talk to your baby, as long as you do it and do it often, will be beneficial in developing their linguistic skills. Some parents worry that all the goo-goo and ga-ga’s will have your children talking like a baby when they can actually communicate fully as a young child. According to Dr. Golinkof this is not the case “Baby talk naturally stops as the child gets older and is able to better communicate with the parent,” she explains.”You just naturally adjust. At age three, you’re not doing it.”

What are your thoughts on baby talk?

Links we found useful when writing this post were:

Royal Society Open Science


(Baby) Talk to me: The Social Context of Infant-Directed Speech and Its Effects on Early Language Acquisition




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