ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—Babies are like sponges, soaking up new words every day. Now scientists have found a specific behavior that may predict how well they learn a new language.
From walking to talking, babies are always learning new skills. New research shows how they interact when they learn could affect how much they learn. Scientists at the University of Washington studied 10-month-old babies from English-speaking families. The infants participated in 12, 25-minute tutoring sessions to learn a foreign language. The teachers read books and played with toys while speaking in Spanish. After four weeks, researchers measured the babies’ responses to language sounds with brain activity tests.
Eye gaze shifting means the baby makes eye contact and then looks back at the object the teacher references. It’s considered one of the earliest social skills that babies develop. Scientists say this simple experiment suggests that social interaction, like eye gaze shifting, is important for learning. Parents can encourage social skills by playing and engaging with their child often. It could help them become a better learner!
A previous study conducted by this team revealed that babies from English-speaking households could learn Mandarin from live tutors, but not from video or audio recordings of Mandarin. This finding added to growing research that babies learn language best by interacting with people.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Writer; Ken Ashe, Editor.
Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.