When I was about 6 months along with my now 9 year-old, I saw an
advertisement in one of those magazines that mothers to be are always
toting around, claiming I could teach my boy a language before he was
It turns out, that's not quite accurate.
Babies don't learn language itself in utero. What they *do* learn are
the cadences and tones of language, the building blocks of learning
language. Babies pick up the sounds, tones and rhythms of their
mother's voices, the vibrations of which are conducted through her
bones. Later in pregnancy, they can hear (and later recall) the
speech patterns of others, though the sound is much like trying to
listen to the radio with your head under water - it's muffled and
unclear, but you can hear the rhythms and tones. Learning and
recalling these tones and cadences are what help children learn their
There have been several article written about language learning in
children which mention in utero learning:
"The Origins of Babble"
[ http://www.jhu.edu/~jhumag/0298web/baby.html ]
[ http://www.parenting.com/parenting/article/toddler/0,,1468,00.html ]
"Introduction to Contemporary Linguistics" (Section 2)
[ http://www.ccunix.ccu.edu.tw/~lngmyers/Lx_Babies.txt ]
"Language Acquisition: Even More Miraculous Than You Might Think!"
[ http://www.sciencemaster.com/columns/archives/gamon_9_01_01.php ]
[ http://www.icsi.berkeley.edu/~jfeldman/Book/09.words.htm ]
Thanks for your inquiry!
Clarification of Answer by
05 May 2002 19:56 PDT
As I recall from my own pregnancies, the techniques being hawked
suggested getting stereo headphones to put over the abdomen, and
plugging them in to the tape of the moment (there were so many being
Looking for [+teach "in utero"]and [+teach "in womb"] led me mostly to
"spirituality" and LaMaze links, and a few pages suggesting that you
read, sing or speak to your child before birth.
It seems that fad for the tapes of yore has passed, and it may even be
that such things could *hinder* your baby's development!
Have a look at this:
" "There has been no defended research anywhere that shows any
from these stimulations," asserts Filer. "Since no one can even say
certain when a fetus is awake, poking them or sticking speakers on the
mother's abdomen may be changing their natural sleep patterns. No one
consider poking or prodding a newborn baby in her bassinet or putting
speaker next to her ear, so why would you do such a thing with a
Als is more emphatic. "My bet is that poking, shaking, or otherwise
deliberately stimulating the fetus might alter its developmental
and anything that affects the development of the brain comes at a
"ATL: part 3 Re: Embryonic Journey II. Michael Carriger"
In my nearly 10 years (next month!) as a parent, I've learned one
thing: kids are sponges. They suck up everything around them, no
special equipment or techniques needed! My suggestion? Get a copy of
your favorite Dr. Seuss book and read to your baby *after* birth.
It's very rewarding to watch your baby smile at the sound of your
Best of luck,