Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Babies Raised In Bilingual Homes Learn New Words Differently Than Infants Learning One Language

Date:
September 30, 2007
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
Research on the learning process for acquiring two languages from birth found differences in how bilingual babies learned words compared to monolingual babies. The research suggests that bilingual babies follow a slightly different pattern when using detailed sound information to learn differences between words. Bilingual infants failed to notice a small change in the sound of an object's name until 20 months, while monolingual infants notices the change at 17 months.

Research on the learning process for acquiring two languages from birth found differences in how bilingual babies learned words compared to monolingual babies. The research suggests that bilingual babies follow a slightly different pattern when using detailed sound information to learn differences between words.

Related Articles


Infants who are raised in bilingual homes learned two similar-sounding words in a laboratory task at a later age than babies who are raised in homes where only one language is spoken.

This difference, which is thought to be advantageous for bilingual infants, appears to be due to the fact that bilingual babies need to devote their attention to the general associations between words and objects (often a word in each language) for a longer period, rather than focusing on detailed sound information. This finding suggests an important difference in the mechanics of how monolingual and bilingual babies learn language.

These findings are from new research conducted at the University of British Columbia and Ottawa.

Immigration, official language policies, and changing cultural norms mean that many infants are being raised bilingually. Because nearly all experimental work in infant language development has focused on children who are monolingual, relatively little is known about the learning processes involved in acquiring two languages from birth.

The researchers sought to determine whether the demands of acquiring more sounds and words lead to differences in language development. An important part of language development is the ability to pay attention to native speech sounds to guide word learning. For example, English learners expect that the nonsense words "bih" and "dih" refer to different concepts because "b" and "d" are different consonant categories in English. By 17 months of age, monolingual English infants use native-language speech-sound differences to guide them as they learn words. Do bilingual infants show a similar developmental pattern?

The study revealed that bilingual infants follow a slightly different pattern. Researchers tested bilingual children ages 14, 17, and 20 months on their ability to associate two words that differed in a single consonant sound with two different objects. Experiment 1 included a heterogeneous sample of bilingual babies (i.e., those exposed to English and another language).

Experiment 2 tested two homogeneous groups of bilingual infants (English-French and English-Chinese). In both experiments, infants were repeatedly presented with a crown-shaped object that was called "bih" and a molecule-shaped object called "dih." They were then tested on their ability to notice a switch in an object's name (for example, the molecule-shaped object being called "bih" instead of "dih"). In all of the groups, the bilingual infants failed to notice the minimal change in the object's name until 20 months of age, whereas monolingual infants noticed the change at 17 months.

This later use of relevant language sounds (such as consonants) to direct word learning is due to the increased demands of learning two languages, the researchers suggest. Ignoring the consonant detail in a new word may be an adaptive tool used by bilingual infants in learning new words. Outside the laboratory, there is little cost to overlooking some of the consonant detail in new words, as there are few similar-sounding words in infants' early vocabularies. By paying less attention to the detailed sound information in the word, bilingual infants can devote more cognitive resources to making the links between words and objects.

Extending this approach to word learning for a few months longer than monolinguals may help bilinguals "keep up" with their peers. Indeed, previous research has shown that bilinguals and monolinguals achieve language-learning milestones (such as speaking their first word) at similar ages and have vocabularies of similar sizes when words from both languages are taken into account.

"Through studies with bilingual infants, we can gain a deeper understanding of language development in all infants," according to Christopher T. Fennell, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa and the lead author of the study. "In addition, the findings emerging from such studies will have practical implications for parents who are raising their children in a bilingual environment by revealing how young bilinguals acquire language."

Summarized from Child Development, Vol. 78, Issue 5, Using Speech Sounds to Guide Word Learning: The Case of Bilingual Infants by Fennell, CT (University of Ottawa), Byers-Heinlein, K, and Werker, JF (University of British Columbia).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Babies Raised In Bilingual Homes Learn New Words Differently Than Infants Learning One Language." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070928092050.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2007, September 30). Babies Raised In Bilingual Homes Learn New Words Differently Than Infants Learning One Language. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070928092050.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Babies Raised In Bilingual Homes Learn New Words Differently Than Infants Learning One Language." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070928092050.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins