A new study, published this week in Psychological Science shows that babies exposed to more than one language in their mother's womb may be more open to being bilingual after they are born.
For the study, psychological scientists from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in France tested two groups of newborns, one group that heard English in the womb and the other group that was exposed to both English and Tagalog, a native language of the Philippines. To determine the babies' preference for a language, the researchers studied the newborns' sucking reflex under the assumption that increased sucking meant interest in a stimulus.
The babies in the experiment heard 10 minutes of speech, with every minute alternating between English and Tagalog. The babies who were exposed only to English were more interested in English than Tagalog, while the infants who were exposed to two languages showed an equal preference for both English and Tagalog.
From this, the researchers concluded that prenatal bilingual exposure prepares infants to listen to and learn about both of their native languages. According to the study authors, "These results suggest that bilingual infants, along with monolingual infants, are able to discriminate between the two languages, providing a mechanism from the first moments of life that helps ensure bilingual infants do not confuse their two languages."
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.