Babies can understand what their mums mean even when they speak in a different language, new study finds
At the beginning your tone is more important than your words
Babies are able to understand what their mums say to them long before they can recognise the words themselves, according to new research. Babies pick up on and react to their mums’ tone of voice, regardless of the language used.
More than 80 babies were involved in a study looking at how they reacted to their mums when they spoke in English and again, when they used Greek words in the same tone. Babies responded in exactly the same way regardless of the language used.
The babies were aged between 14 and 18 months and none had been exposed to Greek in the past.
“What this work showed was that children could have access to understanding using simply the tone of voice,” explained Merideth Gattis, who led the study.
“We did ‘whoops’ and ‘there’ in two languages and got exactly the same results – whether in English or Greek, which none of the children understood."
So it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, which should reassure parents who don’t know what say to their children as babies.