New research suggests that babies began to absorb language when they are inside the womb during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy -- which is earlier than previously held. Newborns can actually tell the difference between their mother's native tongue and foreign languages just hours after they are born.Study author, Patricia K. Kuhl, PhD and colleagues used a high-tech pacifier that was connected to a computer that measured infants' reactions to sounds. The study included 80 infants who were, on average, about 30 hours old and from Tacoma, Wash., and Stockholm, Sweden. They listened to vowel sounds in their native language and a foreign tongue while sucking on the pacifier. Vowels are the loudest units in speech. The number of times they suck on the pacifier indicates which vowel sounds attracted their attention. Babies sucked longer for foreign languages than their native tongue in both countries, the study showed.
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