Being bilingual helps babies brains develop and ensures their vocabulary remains flexible as they get older, scientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences claim.

The experts claim that all babies have a great capacity to learn a second language, but that can begin to diminish as early as their first birthday. Their study found that babies raised in a bilingual household are flexible to learning different languages - especially if they hear lots at home.

Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study, which appeared in the Journal of Phonetics, said: "The bilingual brain is fascinating because it reflects humans' abilities for flexible thinking - bilingual babies learn that objects and events in the world have 2 names, and flexibly switch between these labels, giving the brain lots of good exercise."

Kuhl's previous study had already identified that between 8 and 10 months of age, monolingual babies are able to distinguish speech and sounds from their native language, while their ability to distinguish sounds from a foreign language declines.

This study aims to measure brain activity throughout infancy and its response to language and speaking.

Posted by Robert Mair on 30.8.11 Please send your comments on this article to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com 

 
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