Did you know?
Bilingualism begins during pregnancy!
Becoming a parent is a constant surprise, right from the start.
And the things that babies can do, even and especially when they are still in the womb, are really exciting.
For example, as early as the 25th week, babies are able to hear sounds and even show that they prefer voices, especially their mother’s, to other sounds.
But what does it mean in the bilingual context?
The baby, already in the belly, is able to hear and listen to voices, and slowly begins to learn the rhythm and intonation of the parents’ language.
Their heart rate has been seen to slow down when they hear their mother speak, especially in her mother tongue.
In a study conducted on infants exposed to only one or two languages during pregnancy, it was shown that babies were able to recognize the languages they heard in the womb.
In fact, the sucking reflex was analyzed, which usually increases in frequency when the baby is exposed to a known stimulus. In fact, in “bilingual” infants it was found that the reflex increased in frequency when they heard both languages known, while it remained unchanged when they heard languages unknown to them.
This study shows us that your bilingual baby’s journey starts right from the 25th week of gestation!
And it makes us understand that it is never too early to speak to children in two (or more) different languages.
What to do during pregnancy?
The nine months of pregnancy are months in which you plan, as best you can, the big and small decisions that affect the baby in its first years of life.
And, in the context of a bilingual family, it is therefore also the time to start thinking about which languages the child will be exposed to, which model of bilingual education to use, who will speak which language and why.
There are in fact many models of bilingual education, which differ in the quantity and in the way in which the child will be exposed to the various languages.
It is good that both parents and the family in general agree on which model to use from the start.
In some cases, if you have lived outside your homeland for many years, you may feel like we are not really competent in our native language. If you think you don’t know the language you want to speak to your child as well as you would like, now is the time to brush up on your language skills.
Start reading books, watching movies and podcasts in the language you would like to improve to convey to your child.
And start speaking the language with your baby bump (or your partner’s baby bump), to get used to talking to your baby as soon as it is born.
After all, as the linguist Andrea Bader-Rush says, “The first language lessons take place in the womb”.
The bilingual journey is a challenging journey, but one that will bring a lot of satisfaction, both to parents and to children, who will be able to thank you for the wonderful gift you are giving them when they grow up.
If you have any doubts or concerns and want to talk to me, a Bilingual Speech Therapist, do not hesitate to contact me here.