It May Be Too Late to Teach Your Baby a Second Language

baby foreign languageThe benefits of teaching children multiple languages have been debated, discussed, and ultimately praised. While you should still sign up your grade-schooler for French lessons (or your foreign language of choice), the real benefit comes in the first nine months of life. I know! Who even knew babies could communicate at that point beyond a high-pitched scream, much less using two different languages?

But Freakanomics shows us a report from the Journal of Phonetics demonstrating the mind-expanding benefit of growing up in a bilingual household when you're just an infant.


Apparently the first few months of life are when babies begin to recognize the sounds of language. At even seven months a baby can distinguish between English and Spanish sounds. If that same baby lives in a monolingual household, he can no longer do the same thing by eleven months. However, if he lives in a bilingual household, his language comprehension is extended much further, and therefore remains "open" to learning language.

This may be a fluke, but my son, who was cared for starting at three months of age by a Spanish-speaking nanny, began talking incredibly early and has consistently shown language skills far above his age range. I've always attributed this to his having an older sister, but maybe his little brain benefited from hearing two languages for the first year of his life.

Interesting. And maybe a new argument for those Mandarin tapes you play for your baby that we love to make fun of when that mom isn't around.

Did your baby benefit from being in a bilingual household?

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