“During a recent BabyTalks webinar Beth Zack, PhD and Marley Jarvis, PhD shared research findings on infants’ and toddlers’ inherent capacity to learn multiple languages and identified strategies that educators and adults can use to support DLLs’ [dual language learners’] development. Through the course of the webinar, Zack and Jarvis also addressed several misconceptions about language learning in the first three years of life.
“Misconception 1: The brain cannot accommodate learning more than one language in the early years.
“Reality: Infant and toddler brains are more sophisticated than adults give them credit for and there is no better time to solidify bilingualism. As Zack and Jarvis shared, language development starts before a child is even born as babies begin to hear their parents’ voices in the womb during the third trimester. Because of this, babies can actually identify their parents’ home language as soon as they are born, and what is more, they are born being able to distinguish between the different sounds of all languages. Additionally, research has shown that babies can recognize a “foreign language,” that is, a language that differs from the predominant language used in their environment. They are also more interested in sounds from foreign languages because they are less familiar with them.”
— “Dual Language Learning Among Infants and Toddlers: Addressing Misconceptions About Babies’ Brains,” a blog post by Leslie Villegas and Nicole Hsu, New America, February 8, 2023