It has been known for some time that babies can detect noises from outside the womb by about 30 weeks’ gestation. Recently, a research study has shown that babies actually start detecting language patterns during the last 10 weeks in utero so you’d better start talking to that bump!
Scientific research has already demonstrated that new born babies can immediately recognise their mother’s voice and can distinguish it from others in the crowd. It’s also been shown how their crying patterns share common features with their native language immediately after birth which further suggests that unborn babies can hear and process more than we might think!
Published in the scientific journal ‘Acta Paediatrica’, a very recent study has further backed up these claims. Researchers measured forty American and forty Swedish newborns between 7 and 75 hours after birth to examine whether the babies could distinguish English vowel sounds from Swedish. The researchers innovatively used dummies to measure the amount of curiosity the babies had in different sounds. The researchers proposed that the more the baby sucked the dummy, the greater their level of interest was. Incredibly, both groups consistently demonstrated a statistically higher level of interest in the language that was foreign to them. The researchers attributed to the higher level of interest to the novelty of hearing new sounds.
It was concluded that the results were due to the babies already having been exposed to their native language before birth. The babies, some as young as 7 hours showed how any novelty that their native language offered was easily surpassed by the novelty of the foreign language.
It is not hypothesised how much exposure to language is needed before a child starts becoming desensitised to it but I remember my GCSE French class and I can say with absolute certainty that the novelty had worn off for the vast majority of pupils by the age of 15! Perhaps that’s why it’s common knowledge that young children pick up languages far more easily than adults: they’re simply more enthusiastic about it!!
Although I question the validity of the relationship between the number of times a baby sucks a dummy and the level of interest he or she has, I cannot argue with the increasingly large body of research that is drawing the same conclusions.
So what does this mean? Well you might want to consider stopping all that swearing for one because it looks like your baby is listening!
Furthermore, talking and singing to your unborn child might very well give your child a little boost in the language areas of the brain. You can try one of our lullaby albums if you don’t fancy singing yourself as unlike the majority of other CDS, ours include vocals by professional singers.