Babies start learning language in the womb of their mother

Baby and his mother

Researchers have found that babies, only hours old, have the ability to distinguish between their native language and a foreign language.

This research has been published online in the journal Acta Paediatrica.

It is a matter of astonishment that the babies have the ability to learn languages in the womb of their mothers and this shows that the process of learning starts earlier than the previous suggestions.

“This study moves the measurable result of experience with individual speech sounds from six months of age to before birth,” Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University said in a statement.

Researchers found that the Sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing develop during the 30 weeks of the gestational age and in this study, researchers have found that the babies listen to their mothers in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy and at birth and have the ability to demonstrate what they have heard.

“We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking,” Moon said. “This is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother’s language before we are born.”

Researchers in this study worked on the neonates in Sweden and USA, who were checked for their reaction to the Swedish and English vowel sounds while sucking to the pacifier connected to the computer. Researchers considered the length of sucking the pacifier while exposing the babies to the languages. They found that the babies’ sucking time was longer in case of foreign language and the time was shorter in case of native languages.

Researchers wrote in the result, “The infants in the native and nonnative groups responded differently. As predicted, the infants responded to the unfamiliar nonnative language with higher mean sucks. They also sucked more to the nonnative prototype. Time since birth (range: 7-75 hours) did not affect the outcome.”

“We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot,” Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington said in a statement. “We can’t waste that early curiosity.”


Moon, C., Lagercrantz, H., & Kuhl, P. (2012). Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth: a two-country study Acta Paediatrica DOI: 10.1111/apa.12098

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