Do you have a baby brother or sister? How much do you think they understand?
For several years now scientists have been trying to find out how much babies understand about the speech around them. From a very early age babies are starting to learn the words for everyday objects and actions. They even become aware of common sounds in certain places in words, such as sounds at the beginning and ends of words. This helps them know where words start and where they end in conversations.
- Television Portrait (Danny, Bristol), 1991
- Paul Graham
- © Paul Graham
We know that babies don’t pick up new language from watching television. They need to hear people talking to them.
From our experiments we also know that babies can understand much more than they can say. But when they start to speak babies can learn to say many new words in a very short time. Just like babies have physical growth spurts when their body gets bigger and taller babies have language spurts when they suddenly start to understand and talk more.
Some scientists believe that babies are born to understand speech and this is what makes humans special. So if you have a baby brother or sister, talk to them – they may be following what you say!