In the News

Babies can learn language sounds in the first few hours of being born

Liz Blamire

19th August 2022

New research shows that newborn infants prefer speech sounds over other types of non-language sounds, suggesting they can discern the difference between the two.

The neuroscience team at Bangor University collaborated with researchers in China, to investigate how quickly babies begin to learn language.

Rapid learning of a phonemic discrimination in the first hours of life

By analysing brain activity using non-invasive techniques, the researchers discovered that within hours of birth infants learned to distinguish between natural speech sounds and unnatural speech sounds. They were also able to map the areas of the brain involved in the process.

For an easy to follow commentary, read Guillaume Thierry's post on The Conversation. He is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Bangor and one of the lead researchers:Babies can learn language sounds in the first few hours of being born – new research He suggests that infants are probably primed for early language learning as they are exposed to language in-utero (during pregnancy) but the most important time is after birth and parents and carers should talk to their newborns often and expose them to sensory experiences, as evidence continues to show us that babies learn through experience of their environment (the nurture debate).

Liz Blamire

Liz is a former NHS midwife, who has worked in community, birth centre and acute hospital settings. Liz is an SSAT Accredited Lead Practitioner, who has taught Health and Social Care in FE and secondary schools, where she was a successful HOD. Liz is an experienced senior examiner and author and is the current tutor2u subject lead for Health and Social Care.

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