Year in Review: Language learning starts before birth | Science News

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Year in Review: Language learning starts before birth

Babies seem familiar with vowels, words heard while in womb

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10:00am, December 23, 2013

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Parents are usually careful to watch their language around young children. Maybe parents-to-be ought to watch what they say, too. Not only do babies slurp up language skills in the first few years of life, but new research also suggests that this precocious language learning starts in the womb.

In the later months of pregnancy, fetuses can detect and remember songs, native vowel sounds and entire words. These surprisingly sophisticated linguistic feats offer a new perspective on early learning. The results also raise the possibility of taking steps during pregnancy to help babies at risk for language problems.

Toward the end of pregnancy, sounds from the outside world can seep into a developing fetus’s brain. Young babies show a clear preference for the sounds of their

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