Babies may be learning languages in the womb

After your baby is born, it's never too early to start thinking about what you're going to do to help them have a successful academic career. It has become increasingly hard to get children into elite preschools and there is a lot of pressure these days to help very young kids stand out from the pack. Now, a study is suggesting that you may be able to give your baby an advantage over  the competition staring in fetal development.

According to researchers from the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University, language development begins in the womb, during the later stages of fetal development. Furthermore, mothers may be able to influence their children's language skills while they are still in the womb.

Never too early to learn
The study, which was reported on by HealthDay news, found that just hours after birth, babies are able to tell the difference between their mother's native language and a foreign one. The researchers said that this indicates that infants can listen to their mothers speak by the time they reach their 30th weeks of gestation, earlier than previously thought.

Researcher Patricia Kuhl explained that a mother is the first person to influence a baby's brain, and that the vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest thing a baby hears, so they are more likely to latch onto it.

"This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother's language," study lead author Christine Moon, professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., quoted by the news source. "This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth."

In order to come to their conclusions, researchers examined how babies reacted to vowel sounds in their mothers' language and a foreign language. They discovered that babies were far more likely to stop sucking on their pacifiers and pay attention to the sounds of their mothers' language other than a foreign one, which suggests that they can recognize the language.

Talk to your baby
WebMD News also reported on the study and explained that women should take advantage of these findings and talk to their baby  to help them develop their language skills. Kuhl advised that women refrain from playing music into their bellies, since it's already quite noisy in the womb, and it may be better for the babies to hear the sounds of their voices instead of music.

WebMD spoke to Melissa Wexler Gurfein, a speech pathologist in New York City, who said that her colleagues are excited by these findings.

"Really what it is saying is that infants are learning and tuning into the speech patterns of their first exposed languages earlier than was originally thought," she told the news source. "This may suggest the importance of the mother not only to talk during the last trimester of pregnancy but to continue to talk to her newborn from the moment of birth to help facilitate language development."

Talking to your baby is an extremely easy thing to do, especially compared to the many complicated things that women are instructed to do during pregnancy to help ensure that they have smart and healthy children.Therefore, expecting moms should find this study encouraging since it suggests that just the simple act of speaking aloud to an infant may be able to help them develop language skills.