Aussie Babies Have A Knack For Learning How To Speak New Words

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Hit Newsroom

23 January 2018

Hit Newsroom

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It may all sound like goo goos and gah gahs but a new study has found Australian babies fare better than babies of other English speaking countries at word learning.

Associate Professor Paola Escudero and researchers from the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development at WSU found Australian infants were better at detecting vowel changes than Canadian babies speaking Canadian English because there was less variation vocally.

“We found that babies had difficulty in distinguishing a word like "sheep" from "ship" or "she" from "shoe" before 17 months,” she said.

“But they had no trouble if they first learned a word with less vowel variation such as "ship" even at 15 months of age.”

Professor Escudero said research suggested that infants' improvement at detecting variations in vowel sounds from 15 to 17 months may reflect the development of their attention to core components of vowel processing in the second year of life, which guides language learning through to adulthood.

“These findings are exciting, particularly considering that adults often struggle at learning and distinguishing differences in vowel sounds that are not present in their native language,” she said.

“The dynamic properties of Australian English may be even more challenging.”

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