If babies pick up the language they hear most, what would happen if they were exposed to multiple languages over a longer period of time?

Language is very cool, especially in children where it all seems so easy to go.

What happens to the youngest, even before they are born, is that they prepare themselves for the language that is spoken outside the belly of mama.

Our mouths and brains can make an awful lot of noises, while our language only uses a small part of it.

A baby has no idea what sounds are important, so those young brains hear everything.A well-known example that often comes back is that Japanese or Chinese people have difficulty with the R and the L. Letters and sounds differ and many exist in pairs. The difference between two sounds in a pair is the time between air that comes free and moving the vocal cords (The voice onset time). People are a bit messy, so we are almost never at the right time. Yet we know which letter it is because we make a split through the middle, all the sounds with a low VOT is a R and everything above it is an L.

A Chinese baby can do this too, but because in the Chinese language there is no distinction between the R and the L becomes the 1 general category.

No split means that everything sounds the same.

In Dutch or English we make a difference between the L and the R, so babies who hear that make 2 categories for the L and the R. With two categories, we can also hear two sounds.


If you are raising a baby with two languages, they also make more categories, they learn two languages.If you do it right, they learn two fluency, without any effort. It helps tremendously if you make the sounds clear, that’s why Baby-talk is often so exaggerated.

This is just one of the things that language does with us.But it’s a good example of what a young couple brain can do with the information it gets.

Physically, we also see this back.If you hear two languages from an early age, these are both processed in the same area. If you learn the language later, you use the area next to it.


Two-language or even more languages is fine during education.A baby has no problem picking up this, although you will notice that 1 of the languages becomes dominant (often the language they use most, think school or grandparents).

I live and work in the Philippines.I am married and have two children. The oldest is now 4 and that speaks English and Tagalog. The youngest is almost a year now, here I often speak Dutch, Tagalog and English he picks up from the people around him during the day when I’m at work.

Language is I think something that is neutral in the development of a child.I think you can let a baby learn every language you want. Eventually they go to speak and by means of continuing to practice, you reduce the chances that they are forlearning.

For example, I myself have lived in New Zealand for 9 years with no one to speak the Dutch language.I can tell you that the first time I spoke the language again (daily), I had to think about it.

If these languages are used at the same time, it works well, but none of the languages in which no formal education is enjoyed will speak perfectly.Idem if long no longer spoken/read/heard.
I grew up in a family where especially, as a legacy of the Dutch Indian time, Hollands (so called it was then) was spoken, but the environment dialectically local Malay, and our servants all from middle Java-sourced spoke dialectically (coarse) Javanese with our parents who came from East and middle Java respectively, so we grew up with three languages spoken around us, the Javanese the least they talked to with us Malay.However, we heard our mother and her sisters chatting in Javanese.
Later, Chinese (Chinese Lower Schoool) came in, I have been partly lost by dozens of years, partly after retirement to follow through private conversation lessons, only my vocabulary is not entirely at an adult level.
After this, Bahasa Indonesia, the official Indonesian, came from high school the language in which I enjoyed education.Now somewhat unaccustomed in use, certainly the new terms, but certainly not forgotten.
On the 7th year, English was added, still use a lot, son-in-law is American, now just like daughter (and our son) perfectly bilingual Dutch-English.
As a last German in high school, later an extensive language course was done because I was considering going to study in Germany.

When we speak among themselves, words from various languages are used in one sentence, just as easily, we must be careful not to do so if others who do not understand all these languages would be rude.

All those languages, on Chinese after, I control pretty well, although low Javanese are especially passive so that I can perfectly follow conversations of my wife with her girlfriends, answers is somewhat less, it never spoke at home, only heard a lot.

Dutch is currently my primary language.Never enjoyed any formal education in this.
Also I have no native language.

Our neighbour is married to an Italian, lives in Italy, she speaks with her two fairly young children exclusively Dutch, who speak after a week at Grandpa in the Netherlands to be again reasonably Dutch, for more difficult terms they go into Italian.

So, it succeeds well, certainly up to 7 to 8 years old, if you always hear it all around you.

Then that child will understand and speak all those languages.I live in Australia am married to a Chinese woman and our children speak fluent English Mandarin Chinese and Dutch. But it can be even more extreme. I have a customer who, together with his wife, speaks 7 languages fluently. Every day of the week one spoke only in one of these languages. On Monday Dutch Tuesday German Wednesday French. Etc. Their children speak now they are mature all these languages also fluent.

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