“Writing is a struggle against silence.”
One more reason why words matter: A new study cited in The New York Times suggests what many of us moms probably already believe to be true: that babies actually absorb and learn bits of their native language before they are born. A baby develops the ability to hear at about seven months within the womb, so he or she can make out a mother’s voice in the last eight weeks of pregnancy.
Here’s what the new study came up with: Researchers tested forty American and forty Swedish newborns from 7 to 75 hours old to see if they could distinguish between English and Swedish vowel sounds. These sneaky scientists gave each baby a pacifier that counted the number of sucks they made. As the babies sucked, they were exposed to English and Swedish vowel sounds; the more they sucked, the more either of the sounds were played.
The scientists gauged their level of interest in the sounds based on the amount of sucking they did. American babies sucked more often when hearing Swedish vowel sounds, suggesting a high level of interest because they hadn’t heard them before — and the Swedish babies sucked more often when hearing English language. Smart little cookies!
Learning so quickly right after being born seemed unlikely to the researchers — why, I wonder? – – so they believe that the babies’ understanding of native and nonnative sounds must have been developed in the womb. “Even in late gestation, babies are doing what they’ll be doing throughout infancy and childhood — learning about language,” notes the study paper’s lead author, Christine Moon of Pacific Lutheran University.
Who knows if all this is really accurate. Still, astonishing, isn’t it, to think of all the world’s babies imbibing words along with their amniotic fluid? In my mind, it just goes to show that words are part of the very ocean of our being. And when we write, we enter that ocean in some mysterious and deeply profound way. So, we’re all made of stardust and sea: how expansive we really are!
And gee, maybe all those Baby Einstein tapes worked after all! Write on!