By Maëlle Alquezar

Newborn babyAccording to a study led by Swedish and American researchers, foetuses start learning language in their mother’s womb.

Researchers have revealed that foetuses listen to how their mothers communicate during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. Once they are born, they can demonstrate what they overheard. This study consisted of playing different random vowel sounds to 40 baby boys and girls. These vowels are unique to both English and Swedish, including the English “e” sound from “sweet”. The strength of their sucking on a comforter/dummy connected to a computer allowed the researchers to measure their responses. It appeared that the babies sucked hardest when listening to a foreign vowel which shows that babies are able to distinguish between different languages. This study indicates that babies can recognise, remember and learn the sounds before they are even born.

However, researchers warn parents about exposing their unborn child to new sounds such as foreign language audio courses, as foetuses spend most of their time in a sleep state. Providing extra stimulation could have consequences on that developing sleep-wake cycle and on the baby’s ability to hear.

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