I wish my parents were bilingual. As a German minor, I wish my parents could have taught me a second language as a young child, particularly German. This wish was reinforced by Psychology 1001 when we learned about the benefits from learning a second language in young children. To further the research in this area, researchers are turning to the brains of infants to find out how they distinguish between languages as they are developing.
Neurological activity in an infant's brain shows how an infant distinguishes between languages. Researchers at the University of Washington highlighted the differences between monolingual and bilingual infants when it comes to distinguishing languages.
At six months, monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were said in the infants' primary language or another language. By 10 to 12 months, the infants were only detecting sounds in their primary language.
In contrast, the bilingual infants' results showed that at six to nine months, the infants were not able to distinguish between phonetic sounds in languages. At 10 to 12 months, however, they were able to distinguish between sounds in both.
According to Dr. Patricia Kul, co-director of the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, "What the study demonstrates is that the variability in bilingual babies' experience keeps them open. They do not show the perceptual narrowing as soon as monolingual babies do" (Klass). Early learning of multiple languages can only benefit an infant. Parents should capitalize on this opportunity.
Klass, Perri. "Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Languages." New York Times. New
York Times, 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2012