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Bilingual Babies at an Advantage?

Image by Francisco Navarro

We always want to do what’s best for our babies; from the moment we discover we’re pregnant (well, let’s be honest…even before!) we are faced with choices that may affect our children for better or worse.

This can be overwhelming at times; as parents it seems at times that we are bombarded with the latest
and greatest gadget or book promising to help raise the IQ, athletic potential, creativity level, etc. of our babies. From headphones for your pregnant belly to mind-expanding puzzles for preschoolers, the options seem limitless…and as parents we need to filter through these to find the ones that suit our needs.

The newest exciting (or guilt-inducing, depending upon your perspective) research relates to an infant’s speech development. Want your child to be fluent in more than one language? Better start early!

From a study reported in the Journal of Phonetics, “In summary, our results support the view that bilingual and monolingual infants may differ in the trajectory they follow in the development of speech perception—bilingual infants may remain ‘‘open” longer to language experience than monolingual infants, neurally committing to the languages they hear at a later point in time.”

In other words, the study shows that babies exposed to more than one language before the age of ten months have a far greater HEAR and distinguish between even subtle different sounds in language, which in turn means that they will have a greater aptitude to be fluent in those languages.

What does this mean to you as a parent? Does this make you more inclined to expose your newborn to other languages?

If so, how would you go about it? Find a Mommy-and-me language class? Hire a nanny whose first language isn’t the same as your own? Play learning a new language tapes for your baby?

Or is this unwelcome, guilt-inducing news to you? Just another thing you “should do” (or should have done) to give your baby a leg up in the world?

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