Science & Tech
Fetuses learn language in the womb

Credits: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi/Files


Babies can distinguish between their native language and foreign tongues when they're just a few hours old, a new study has found, suggesting they start absorbing language before birth.

Sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing develop by 30 weeks of the gestational age, the study's authors said, and the fetus starts listening to the mother's voice during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy.

"The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain," said the University of Washington's Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study. "The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them."
The study challenges previously held beliefs about infant learning.

"This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother's language," said Christine Moon, lead author. "This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth."

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