"I speak French and want my daughter to learn too, so Baby Bright Eyes is ideal for us."

Nicky King, Entrepreneur and Mum.

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If your little one is only just mastering words such as ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’ or ‘eat’  in your native language, it seems almost unbelievable to suggest that they might be able to pick up the odd verb or noun in French or German too!

In fact, only two decades ago, experts believed that if youngsters were exposed to more than one language, they would suffer ‘language confusion’ which would impair their speech.

Those of you with older toddlers will have seen first-hand the ‘sponge-like’ capabilities of the developing brain. They astound us every day with increasingly complex English words and sentences.  Now, more and more parents are recognising that the same is true of another language.

Research into early language learning now shows us that it won’t lead to any impairment or developmental delay. In fact, it has become clear that very young children have an incredible knack for acquiring one, two or even more languages!

Now for the science bit

Scientists have studied the differences between infant brains exposed to one language and those exposed to two. The results help us to understand more about how the brain takes on language, and how early language learning shapes the brain.

Each language uses a unique set of sounds, and scientists now know that babies are born with the ability to distinguish all of them.

Research has even shown that language learning can begin in the womb! A recent study suggests that newborn babies prefer languages which are rhythmically similar to the one they’ve heard in the foetus. Babies with bilingual mothers prefer those languages over others – and are also able to register the differences between the two languages.

Babies learn language from people, not from screens

Researchers in Seattle showed that when English babies were directly spoken to in Mandarin, those babies could detect Chinese language sounds. However, when the Mandarin was delivered via TV or CD, the babies learned nothing.

Early advantage

Children who speak more than one language reap rewards at all stages of life. Benefits are thought to include:

  • improved focus, literacy and multi-tasking
  • enhanced ‘cognitive control’
  • a rounded world-view
  • increased opportunities

The mental workout involved in speaking two languages can even lead to a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Aren’t they amazing?

Incredibly, babies raised in bilingual homes can learn both languages in the same time it takes most babies to learn one. But while new language learning is easiest during early childhood, the ability appears to decline dramatically as they get older.

Research suggests that if the child is exposed to a second language after puberty they are unlikely to achieve the same skill level, as if they had started learning earlier. In fact, most experts agree that learning a new language is easiest before the age of seven.

What the experts recommend

  • Follow biology and expose little ones to a second language early. It might not seem like they are taking it on board – but they are!
  • Babies need personal interaction to soak in a new language – TV or CDs help but won’t work alone
  • Find an early learning class such as Baby Bright Eyes, or a bilingual playgroup
  • If you know another language, use it at home as often as possible –tips include playing simple games, reading books and counting the stairs as you climb them!