Once upon a time, parents feared that if they exposed their babies to more than one language at home they would grow to be confused and show signs of slower development. But now, there is even scientific proof that babies raised in a bilingual household not only think differently than monolingual babies, but actually manage to retain an interest in both languages and tend to develop strong multitasking and problem-solving skills.
According to a much-cited article out this week in The New York Times, researchers have found ways to analyze infant behavior to figure out infant perceptions of sounds and words and languages, of what is familiar and what is unfamiliar to them. Using measures of electrical brain responses (at 6 months, the subjects were too tiny to talk!) researchers found that at 6 months:
“Monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard.
The researchers suggested that this represents a process of neural commitment, in which the infant brain wires itself to understand one language and its sounds.
In contrast, the bilingual infants followed a different developmental trajectory. At 6 to 9 months, they did not detect differences in phonetic sounds in either language, but when they were older — 10 to 12 months — they were able to discriminate sounds in both.”
What does this tell us? For starters this goes to show bilingualism is an incredibly valuable trait and can actually help babies grow up to be more“more cognitively flexible,” as Dr. Patricia Kuhl, one of the authors of the study, puts it.
Parents who use Voxy definitely have cause to celebrate! Babies, however, you will have to keep waiting… Voxy has no plans for infant level courses just yet.