All babies are born with an extraordinary ability to learn languages, pattern of sounds and associate them to the meaning attributed to them by their parents. The process of language learning begins when the child is still in the womb. From the seventh month of pregnancy when children develop hearing skills, they listen intently to all the conversations that their mothers have or the people around her have. This constant listening helps them to identify speech patterns as soon as they are born. By the time, they are four and half months old, infants start identifying the sound patterns of their own name and start distinguishing it from other words, even if they have same number of syllables or similar inflections.
By the age of six months, they start understanding words like ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ and start associating them to their parents. One and a half year olds already start understanding and learning the basics of syntax and structure of the language. Researchers study the understanding of a language of an infant by looking for clues through their sucking reflex. Strange noises in general make babies stop sucking and stare while soothing voice of a mother encourages them to suck faster. They may also measure the blood flow to the brain in sleeping infants to see that how it increases to the left hemisphere of the brain that processes speech when they hear tapes of women reading and to observe that there were no changes in blood flow when tapes were played backward or there was silence.
Similarly, it was seen that playing meaningful words for the baby that are frequently used drew baby’s attention but non-words could not keep his or her attention, seeing that how they soak up a language. The best way to foster language development in a baby is to spend time with her and chatting to them. It has been seen that infants prefer high-pitched baby talk to serious adult language and pay more attention to it as parents usually lean towards child's face while having a baby talk with them and use exaggerated facial expressions. Reading to babies and story time is good enough for all ages and babies are never too young to enjoy it. Since ‘book language’ is different from language spoken in our daily lives, reading stories to babies prepares them for the literary language and make them bond better with books and respect them. Most experts believe that flash cards or expensive toys or videos do little to enhance language learning and intelligence of a baby.
The only way to encourage development in babies is to spend time with them, talking to them and giving them time to respond too, even if it is through gestures or babbling. This method is known as ‘joint attention’ and no TV programs or videos can substitute it. It has been seen that children learn earlier with live speakers rather than recordings. Even, if parents are working, the time they spend with the babies in fun, warm and loving interaction in the evening is enough for the children to pick up words and language. If your child spends most of his or her time in a daycare, make sure that they have low caregiver-to-child ratio and that caregivers spend time talking and reading to children.