Newborn babies respond differently to their mother tongue as compared to foreign languages thanks to all the listening they did while in the womb, a joint study by American and Swedish researchers suggests.
“This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth,” lead author Christine Moon, a psychology professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., said in a statement.
Moon described the study as the first to show that fetuses learn about these sounds prenatally.
About 30 weeks into gestational age, fetuses develop sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing, the authors note, adding that they are listening to “ambient language” or speech — most clearly that of their mother — 10 weeks before they are born.
Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, adds that vowel sounds uttered by the expectant mother are particularly stimulating.
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