February 19, 2010 12:09
Bilingual education starts from womb, a research team led by Krista Byers-Heinlein and Janet Werker from the University of British Columbia claims to have found.
The researchers compared the reactions of newborn babies whose mothers are monolingual in English with those of mothers who are bilingual in English and Tagalog.
The babies of bilingual mothers showed interest when hearing both languages, but babies of monolingual mothers only reacted to English. The study was published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science.
The researchers observed the sucking reflex of babies to see whether they recognized linguistic stimulus. Newborn babies tend to suck anything that touches their tongue, lips, or cheeks, and the frequency of such action increases when something interesting happens.
Exposing newborn babies to two different languages alternating every minute for 10 minutes, the researchers discovered that only the babies of bilingual mothers showed a sucking reflex when the two languages alternated.
The team wrote in the article, "Bilingual newborns' interest in both languages helps ensure attention to, and hence further learning about, each of their languages."
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