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Your Baby Might Be A Polyglot

Your Baby Might Be A PolyglotOk, so maybe your baby can’t speak multiple languages, but they sure do cry in their native language… read on.

For the untrained ears, it’s just a newborn baby’s cry. For scientists, it’s a series of pitches based on a language – the mother language. There have been studies showing that a baby in the womb can hear. In other words, the little one is listening! But this recent study suggests that the little one is not only listening but seems to be storing what he or she hears and later imitates it.

German scientists report that newborns babies cry in their native tongue, i.e. the language they are most familiar with because they heard it most often while still in the womb.

As early as the first week after delivery, the researchers noticed that babies will make crying sounds which have “melodies” specific to a language. The researchers looked at 60 babies, 30 born to German-speaking families and 30 to French-speaking families and recorded cries produced under different situations. Acoustic analysis showed that German babies tended to start crying in a high-pitched tone and progress to lower-pitched tines. The French babies, on the other hand, started low and moved towards higher-pitched sounds. These baby sound patterns, according to the researchers, correspond to the intonation patterns of the language they are most familiar with. As the baby grows older, the baby cries will develop into babbles that would also be similar to baby’s mother language.

We know that unborn babies especially during the last trimester can hear what’s being said in the outside world. This is the reason why:

  • We talk to our babies while still in the tummy. At least I and my husband did. Did you?
  • We play soothing music to our unborn babies. I did from time to time but I preferred to sing to my babies. Some moms even place a music player right next to the tummy, music which many claims, would later help put the baby to sleep post delivery.
  • A baby seems to know Mommy’s voice right from the start.

The fact that babies may “recognize” and “bond” with their native language is also fascinating. But it also makes me wonder about babies born to bilingual or multilingual families. Do the babies get confused about the languages? How would this affect their language skill development? I’d love to know as my kids as multilingual. Hopefully, more studies in this area will answer my questions.


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