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  • SpeechEase Team

Is there an effect of simultaneous language exposure on language acquisition?

As a parent or guardian, it can be challenging with feelings of doubt when it comes to language learning; constantly questioning “Should we speak two languages? Should we just speak one?” or “Is this okay for the baby?”. Frankly, when it comes to simultaneous language exposure (ie. being exposed to two languages) at birth, this has proven to have no negative effect on language acquisition.

Through studies done by Byers-Heinlein, Burns and Werker (2010) on monolingual (single language; English) and bilingual (two languages; English and Tagalog) neonates, they found that the bilingual neonates were capable of deciphering between the two languages through a high amplitude sucking (HAS) method of experimentation. While the monolingual neonates, whose mothers only spoke to them in English, showed a greater preference for English over Tagalog. The bilingual neonates, whose mothers spoke to them in both English and Tagalog, did not have a language preference, but rather were able to discriminate between both languages, without any sign of confusion. Showing an equal preference for both languages.

Neonates are quite intricate beings, able to detect two different languages and formulate their own special systems. So, exposing your baby to two languages at birth can actually be quite beneficial because who knows, they may become the next famous polyglot. Now, if you don’t know this term, I also didn’t until one of my linguistics classes, so I’ll insert a definition here: knowing or using several languages (as taken from Google).

Written by: Samantha Senghera Speech-Language Pathology Assistant


Byers-Heinlein, K., Burns, T. C., & Werker, J. F. (2010). The roots of bilingualism in newborns. Psychological science, 21(3), 343-348.

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