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The Benefits of Multiple Language Exposure in Babies
Spanish? French? Chinese? There is mounting evidence that children benefit from growing up in multilingual households. Whatever foreign language(s) you pick for your baby, here’s what science says about learning a second (or third) language from infancy.
In the womb, your babe is already listening to your voice. In fact, it is one of the most important sounds they hear prior to birth. By the time they are born, your baby can differentiate between the language of the mother (that’s you) and different languages (might be you too). In fact, language differentiation is one thing your baby can do better than you. At birth, a baby can tell the difference between all 800 sounds that make up the languages of the world. Below are just a few benefits of growing up in a bilingual environment.
There is No Better Time to Learn
Synaptic pruning is a natural process that occurs in the brain between early childhood and adulthood. During synaptic pruning, the brain eliminates extra synapses (the brain structures that allow neurons to communicate with each other).
Language synapses that are not being used will start to prune away as early as 9 months. Thus, by their first birthdays, babies are losing their ability to understand different languages.
They Will Become Fluent in Both
In one study of 11-month-old infants raised in English-only homes versus bilingual homes, researchers found that the babies in the bilingual, or Spanish and English-speaking homes, were specialized to both languages. The babies from the English-only homes were specialized just to English. Learning two languages at once did not hinder the bilingual babies’ ability to adopt either language.
They Can Have a Stronger Vocabulary in Both Languages than Their Peers
Parents often wonder if exposing infants to multiple languages will delay their ability to master one. However, bilingual children have been found to have an equal or greater vocabulary than their monolingual peers.
Their Brain will Strengthen
There is evidence that the early acquisition of multiple languages primes the brain to have better executive functioning skills, such as problem solving and attention shifting.
Teaching language is far more effective when taught through interaction with real people. Watching an instructional video, even a screen with someone talking, is less effective.