Lifestyle Adopted babies ‘remember’ their birth language

Adopted babies ‘remember’ their birth language

Early language learning in children adopted internationally can be subconsciously retained, even from the very early months of life.

The study compared the language learning abilities of Korean-born Dutch speakers and a control group of native Dutch-speakers, to explore whether children who were adopted internationally were advantaged by having early exposure to their birth parents’ language.

Professor Anne Cutler from the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development (Western Sydney University) said that, decades after their adoption, Korean adoptees were still better at pronouncing uniquely Korean sounds than the control participants.

This held true even if they were only a few months old at the time of adoption.

What’s more, there was no difference in the learning results of Korean-born participants adopted under six months of age and those adopted after the age of seventeen months.

“This tells us that lasting cognitive and linguistic abilities are being laid down even in the earliest months of life and that what has been retained about the birth language is abstract knowledge about what patterns are possible, not, for instance, words,” she said.

“For people adopted internationally this is good news, especially as many of them try to reconnect with the people and culture of their birth countries.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Hanyang University (South Korea) and Radboud University, (Netherlands).

Read more about this study here. Story credit: Western Sydney University newsroom.

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