A new study says even if babies never spoke their birth language, they still retain it on some level.
Again and again, research proves babies absorb so much more about the world around them than we may think. In a recent example, a new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science finds that even if babies move to a new country, or are adopted into families that speak another language before they themselves talk, they retain some knowledge of their birth language.
Researchers looked at Korean adults around age 30, all of whom were adopted as babies by Dutch-speaking families. They were asked to pronounce Korean consonants after just a brief training class. They also looked at a control group of adult who had never been exposed to the Korean language before.
Interestingly, both groups spoke at the same level before the class, but afterwards, those who were adopted performed far better. And even more fascinating is that researchers noted no difference in the abilities of the participants who were adopted before six months of age, when they were not yet speaking, and those who were adopted after 17 months, when they had learned to talk.
Dr. Jiyoun Choi of Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea told BBC News, "This finding indicates that useful language knowledge is laid down in [the] very early months of life, which can be retained without further input of the language and revealed via re-learning." Dr. Choi recommends that all parents talk to their babies as much as they can, because indeed they are taking it all in!
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Of course, you aren't alone if you feel a little funny talking to someone who only answers you back with coos and cries. I recall chatting up a storm to my children when they were babies, and wondering if they were thinking, What the heck is this lady saying?! Clearly speaking to them so young made a difference, though. All my girls talked very early...and haven't stopped since!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.